Another quiet week; I’ll try to be less blather-y than last time.
- I finally finished Ash. It was definitely worth the read, even though I probably did permanent damage to my eyesight with that damn book. It’s hard to recommend, though, given its length… but I’ll recommend it anyway. Gritty, clever, and moving, it made for a superb read. And if nothing else it’ll take you ages and feel like an accomplishment when you’re done!
- I’m now reading The Labyrinth Index, the eighth book in the Laundry Files series. It’s very good so far, although the setting is very, very bleak (for reasons that are pretty major spoilers for the series as a whole). Despite it being a much quicker read than Ash–how can it not be?–I find myself putting it aside constantly to do something else. It’s not the book’s fault; it’s that I’m pretty drained on the reading front. I’m gonna finish it in the next day or two, though.
- As mentioned earlier this week, the puzzle stuff I’ve been working on with Krazydad went live on his site. We’re now working on… something else, that may or may not result in further puzzling goodness. Further news as events warrant.
- I’ve continued to poke my way through Tametsi, which is fantastic but also intensely brain-burning. After uninstalling all of the free-to-play stuff on my PS4, I… basically haven’t booted it up since, other than to buy the new Williams pinball table pack for Pinball FX3.
- I finished up a book of sudoku puzzles I had been working on off-and-on for, like, four years. Well, mostly finished. The last three puzzles suddenly required a bunch of advanced techniques that the other 209 didn’t; I know how to do those techniques, mind you, but I felt it was a betrayal of confidence in the structure of the magazine and called it quits. One down, a million to go…
- I’m not really watching anything on TV right now other than keeping up with The Good Place. You are watching The Good Place, right? It’s fantastic.
This weekend looks to be very ugly here, with incoming snow-storms. I’ve prepped as much as is reasonable and am heading to bed early now just in case. Hopefully I just end up snowed in rather than, y’know, snowed in and freezing. We shall see!
This week was even more low-key than last week, with one major exception. And that’s fine by me.
- I’m still reading Ash: A Secret History. It’s very, very good, and also very, very long; I’m on page 716 as I write this, which is almost precisely two-thirds of the way through the book. Most days I manage somewhere between fifty and a hundred and fifty pages. It’ll be done soon, and it’s likely the last (physical) book I read this year; I’ll jump to my Kindle, because…
- …the power went out at my house Saturday morning at 3am and was off until around 2pm. It was cold. I ended up bundling under two blankets on my recliner and starting the second Wheel of Time book on my Kindle, which was half-charged. (Thanks, battery pack I still have from my job! You kept my phone and my Kindle going.) Fortunately the power did come back on before I had to find somewhere else to crash for the evening.
- Most evenings have been spent watching Twitch, and specifically NickCapricorn, a small streamer who has been playing various classic games. I do mean small; it’s not uncommon for there to only be one or two of us active in his chat. But he’s a nice guy and he keeps up conversation… and he’s currently playing StarTropics, one of my favorite old NES games, for the first time. It’s been a delight watching him do so very badly at it.
- I continued working with Krazydad on the Ripple Effect implementation, by which I mean I wrote a bit of code and did quite a lot more test solving of puzzles while he messed with a bunch of parameters. I suspect the new puzzle type will be going up on his website relatively soon, which is pretty exciting. They’re not quite as good as human-made ones… but I now have code to generate an infinite number of them for the rest of my life, so that seems like a reasonable trade-off.
- I’ve also continued to solve paper puzzles during the day, mostly as a break from reading Ash. I’m only eight puzzles away from finishing this dang Sudoku book I’ve been working on for years. (Of course, those eight puzzles are the hardest ones, and they generally take me half an hour or so to solve, so there’s still plenty of time left in there…)
- And on the videogame side, I was turned on to Tametsi by folks in a puzzle-related Discord. It’s basically “extremely hard Minesweeper,” and is very very good. Also very cheap ($3). I’m excited to work my way through it. (It says that it’s Windows-only, but
tametsi.exe is actually a Java JAR file, so if you know the proper incantations it’s perfectly playable on both Mac and Linux “natively.”)
- I also put a lot of time into Let It Die this week, and particularly today. No, I still haven’t beaten it, because I know when I do I’ll stop playing, and I still really enjoy the game hundreds (and hundreds) of hours in. But I think I’m really, truly going to push to beat the game before I head home for the holidays.
- After being a good boy for Thanksgiving, I utterly exploded the diet on Monday with some delicious pizza. Well, lots of delicious pizza. I ended up fasting for the rest of the week, breaking it this morning, which will hopefully help me get back on track. I’ve already written off the holidays–in fact, I spent time yesterday figuring out which snacks I’m going to have shipped to my Mom’s house before I get there–so the better I do before then the less catastrophic my time home will be. And then it’ll be back to the grind come January… but isn’t that what Januaries are for?
(As a side note, I managed to finagle the right bits to go to my old job’s holiday party one last time, mostly thanks to the efforts of a friend who still works there. I’m looking forward to it; the party itself is always pleasant, but I started a tradition of playing card games and other fun easy group games in the lobby of the hotel until the wee hours of the morning after the party, and getting to do that one last time will be nice. That’s not for a couple of weeks, though.)
…for a week where not a lot happened, I sure wrote a lot. Huh. I’ll try to be more brief next week. Maybe my fingers just wanted to type a bunch again, now that NaNo’s over?
Ahh, the sweet return to normalcy after the pressure that is NaNo.
- I don’t allow myself to read while I’m writing in November; it has a habit of over-influencing what I put on the page. So, with the novel knocked out, it’s time to dig back in, right? Well, yes and no. I still had an enormous stack of books from the library that I had been renewing as I wrote, and when I was in the middle of reading the second post-NaNo one I realized that I kept glancing at that stack with trepidation, and (worse) I wasn’t even enjoying the book I was reading. Not that it was a bad book! It just felt like an obligation rather than, you know, the pleasure that reading should be. Ugh. So I bit the bullet and brought almost everything back to the library, knowing that I can check them out again in the new year at a more leisurely pace. The only one I kept is Ash: A Secret History, which is famous for being the longest single-volume fantasy novel ever written. It’s so long that the US printing is actually four books, but one of the libraries in Cardinal has the single-volume edition. It weighs three or four pounds, easy. So, yeah, I’m reading, and this is still a lot of book to finish in the next three weeks, but it’s just the one.
- I’ve also jumped back into the puzzle books full-force, which has been nice. I’m so very close to being done with a book of sudoku that I’ve been poking at off and on for something like four years, and my goal is to knock it out before I go back home for the holidays so I can swap it out for a new one. Hopefully it won’t take as long.
- As mentioned earlier this week, I’ve even been doing some programming, which has been nice. I still want to jump into the rewrite of DXV’s Dudes of Stuff and Things, but I’m going to hold off on that until the new year, since I know I’m not going to work on it when I’m back home for the holidays.
- Oh yeah, it was Thanksgiving this week, wasn’t it? I went to a coworker’s house for the evening and made the (very hard, given my predilections) decision to not meaningfully stray from my diet, even though there were so many delicious carbs there. So many. But I felt better afterwards for staying strong, and I still got to hang out with friends for a while, so it all worked out. (We also played CrossTalk, which is a fantastic family/party game.)
- On a meta note, it seems like most of the problems with the new Gutenberg editor in WordPress have been fixed. That’s nice!
The time when I travel back home for the holidays rapidly approaches. I’m looking forward to it, to be sure. If anything, Thanksgiving made me kinda excited to go back and see family and some of my old friends. Soon!
This one’s a day late, but there’s a reason for that.
- I did it! My sixteenth(ish) NaNovel, Ex Urbes, is done, as of about three minutes ago. I wrote 50,214 words according to
wc, and a few more than that according to the official NaNo word counter. (They actually used to use
wc as well, so it kinda bugs me that they don’t any more.) It was an interesting experience, writing while retired, quite different from the way I’ve written NaNo before; I didn’t feel a lot of time pressure, so found it hard to do much more than 2-3K a day. Yesterday put me at 38K, though, and I decided that I was gonna finish this weekend come Hell or high water… and when I woke up this morning I went, no, I’m finishing today, dammit. And so I did. 12,369 words in one day is less than half of my peak, but it’s a pretty sizable chunk, roughly fifty pages or so of a typical book. Not bad.
- What is bad? The novel. It’s terribad. But I’m glad it’s done.
- Ways I’ve wasted time this week while not doing NaNo:
- I continued to watch an episode of both Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine each day. I’m almost at the end of the first series and the end of the last released season of the second, so that’ll be over soon. I… should probably watch more Sabrina, but as an hour-long show it felt like too much of an indulgence this week.
- I also did a bunch of puzzles. I got another order in from Japan on Monday, and it included the latest Nikoli “Penpa” magazine, a superb variety mag they put out once a year that’s always my first recommendation to anyone who says they want to branch out and try things that aren’t sudoku. I’m doing the book in round-robin format, doing the first puzzle of each type, then circling back to the start of the book to do the second, and so forth. It’s been a nice variety. (I skip Numberlink, though. I hate those puzzles.)
- Lastly, I’ve been watching Twitch sporadically. I no longer really watch Landail, due to some creepy sexist stuff that goes on there that I decided I couldn’t really be part of any more, but catsonurhead is still awesome, and I’ve started watching some native Spanish-speaking streamers who also manage English better than I ever will their language. The number of watchers on their channels are low, so it’s got a nice community vibe.
- We also had an extended game night this week at Fercott Fermentables. We played Antike II, and I won, although for most of the game I was strictly mid-pack. That game is absolutely fantastic, and it sang with five players. I look forward to bringing it home for the holidays and playing it (along with Spirit Island) with my next-door neighbors.
I still have a stack of books to read, many of which are close to being unrenewable, so I’m going to get cracking on those tomorrow. But for the rest of tonight I plan on vegging out and watching Twitch. I think I’ve earned it.
Writing, huh? This is writing, right? This is gonna be a short one, given what’s going on.
- It’s NaNoWriMo. As of just a few moments ago, I cracked 16,000 words on Ex Urbes, the cyberpunk thriller I’m writing instead of Sharp because I had a lot of trouble with that story, as I wrote about. Ex Urbes isn’t any good, but it is easy to write, so that’s been working pretty well. I haven’t yet had one of my typical “amazing days” that help me knock out the novel sooner rather than later, but I’m ahead of the standard month-long pace, and am likely to continue pulling ahead even if I never have a burst-writing day.
- One of the problems with NaNo, though, is that I feel like I can’t do the other things that I like to do, because I should be writing. I still have a big stack of books that I need to read, but I can’t read, because I should be writing. I’ve barely touched my puzzle books, because I should be writing. What that actually means is that I end up watching Twitch and browsing too much stupid stuff on the Internet, because those are lower commitment, but wasting more time than I would if I allowed myself the other things. Ugh.
- I have been watching a bit of TV, though. I finished up Orange is the New Black, and intentionally haven’t added another drama to the list. I also haven’t watched Sabrina past the fourth episode. Mostly I watch a single episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth each day, plus The Good Place on Hulu the day after it airs on TV. That feels like little enough to be messing with NaNo.
I need to finish up this novel so I can put books back on the agenda. I’m going to aim to do that over the next week, but we’ll see if that happens.
Oh, hey, it’s November. Gulp.
- I kept reading aggressively through November 1st. I wrote about The Orphan Master’s Son here; it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I also knocked out another Christopher Priest novel, The Separation. I still like him, but I feel that he really basically writes the same novel over and over again. Each one has begun to feel a little too same-y compared to the rest. Timothy Zahn’s Spinneret was the last book I read; I finished it on the morning of the 1st. Some of you may recognize his name from the Thrawn trilogy of Star Wars novels that really kicked off the Extended Universe back in the ’90s. Spinneret was fine, if slight. I’m taking at least a brief hiatus, even though I still have way too many books sitting on my sofa to read.
- November started, which means NaNoWriMo started as well. I began writing Sharp on the evening of November 1st, and after getting ~300 words into it I stopped. The literary style I was affecting simply wasn’t working. I should have known better, honestly; the last time I copped a style that wasn’t my own, it was for a Banksian pastiche, and I had similar troubles putting words to page at any reasonable rate. This time, though, the words weren’t just slow. They were awful, as I discovered when I reread it. So: I tossed it and started over today. I’m a little over 1500 words in now, and those words came at roughly 6-10x the rate of the original 300, so that’s good at least. I’m not sure yet if the story is any good, though. I’ll keep you posted.
- The first of November was also the first day of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”). I had to finish on the phone, because COBRA is complicated, but the end result is that I should have insurance next year… and it should be free. That was a surprising discovery, but it’s because I make a lot less money now that I’m retired. On the one hand, it feels kinda weird and wrong that there isn’t means testing to go along with raw income. On the other hand, government stuff like this never, ever breaks in my favor… so I’ll take it. I’ve still got to contact my COBRA coverage company and get it to terminate on December 31st, but that can wait until I get at least the beginning paperwork for the ACA stuff.
- Let’s just say the diet didn’t hold and leave it at that. I’ll try harder this coming week.
- I’ve been trying to actually stay on top of TV for once. Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine continue; I’m in the last season of LMoE. I just finished season 2 of Luke Cage tonight (it was fine but not great) and am close to finishing season 6 of Orange is the New Black. I started watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Hallowe’en, for obvious reasons, and that’ll take the place of Luke Cage for the time being. It’s cheesy but fun.
- Boy, this was a down month for the stock market. And there’s likely more on the way. Those numbers used to be a lot more hypothetical in terms of affecting my continued financial health than they are now. Gulp.
I’m gonna keep cracking on this novel for the next few days, at least, to see if it’s got legs. If so, I’ll try to assess whether the writing is worth sharing or not. If it is, well, I’ll be linking it here, which should provide something a bit different to read, horse story notwithstanding.
As promised (and expected), a comparatively peaceful week.
- I read eight or nine more novels in the pre-NaNo rush. Five of them were The Long Earth and its sequels, a collaborative effort by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. They were… fine, I guess? The setting was neat, but none of the books really had a plot, per se, other than the fourth. Mostly they were picaresques. Easy reads, though. Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net was much more interesting, a pretty obvious reaction to the typical cyberpunk stories that the man had popularized with his Mirrorshades compilation. I’m currently in the third (of four) “Okie” novels by James Blish. The compilation sorts them chronologically rather than in publication order, and it shows; this third one was the first written, and feels a lot rougher than the others, in the weird sort of way ’50s sf often does: absolutely crazy stuff happens (like sending a planet out of the galactic plane as if it’s no big deal), and the book treats it as a fait accompli. It’s weird, but a nice change from the headier modern stuff I’ve been reading otherwise, so I’ll finish it up in the next day or two.
- That said, I’m still going to have a ton of books left on my sofa at the start of NaNoWriMo, only four days away now, which means I’ll have to keep reading throughout the month. It’ll be less of a problem than usual, I guess, since I don’t also have a job sucking up the oxygen (and time), but it’s going to be something of a first for me.
- Speaking of NaNo, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about my upcoming novel, including thoughts about how it’s likely to end. I think I have a pretty workable (if very rough) outline of the main body in my head. That sort of thing often changes with the writing, and I’ll definitely let it if it needs to, but it’s a good start.
- As part of the prep work for said upcoming novel, I had to look into the modern state-of-the-art for Google Web Fonts. (You’ll see why… hopefully.) I think I’ll be able to do what I need to do with a minimum of pain, although I’ll have to write a custom text-to-HTML translator for this novel so it’ll look right. I’m… actually kinda looking forward to that?
- Still watching a bit of TV. I manage an episode of Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine most days, and Luke Cage and Orange is the New Black every other day or so. I’m looking forward to finishing both of the latter shows, mainly because I want to bump The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina up on the queue for timeliness/thematic reasons.
- Other than my usual free-to-play gaming, I’ve put quite a bit of time into video pinball in the last week or two. Pinball FX3 has the Williams licenses now, and those tables have been fun to mess around on, but I’ve mainly been grinding Sorcerer’s Lair, which I still think is the best table Zen’s ever made. I find it really strange that it’s their free-to-play table, particularly given how many hundreds of dollars I’ve sunk into all the other ones… but that’s fine. It was interesting watching a Twitch streamer play the table for the first time, having the same dawning sense that I did many years ago of “oh, there is actually something to this whole pinball thing!” Yes. Yes, there is.
- The diet’s been pretty much derailed for the last couple of weeks, at first due to the visit and then later because it’s always easier to say “tomorrow” than it is to actually buckle down and do the right thing. I’m typing this up as a bit of public self-shaming to, you know, buckle down and do the right thing.
- On a meta note, the new Gutenberg editor for WordPress is horribly buggy; it tends to eat anything after italics in a bullet point unless you do some stupid shenanigans, as one example that I had to deal with several times while writing this update. I may go back to the classic editor for a while until they fix more of the bugs.
In the middle of next week begins the month-long adventure of NaNoWriMo, which will be… interesting, for sure. I look forward to it with no small amount of trepidation every year (and wrote about it earlier this week), but I do look forward to it. I don’t know how it’ll mess with my posting schedule here, though. We’ll find out together, I guess!
(Also, Gutenberg ate the last couple of sentences of this post three times because of that stupid italics bug. Ugh. Back to the classic editor I go.)
After several quiet weeks, this one ended up pretty much jam-packed from start to finish.
- But first: the deluge of words doth continue. I read my first Christopher Priest (of The Prestige fame) and enjoyed it enough to make an exception to my “no more holds before December” rule so that I could get… well… The Prestige. John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, about the Theranos debacle, was a sobering (and fascinating) read.
- Most of the week, however, was spent with my cousin from Louisiana, who was visiting the area. She stayed in Asheville through Tuesday, then headed my way Wednesday until Friday. It was a pleasure hanging out with her, driving around to the various sights, eating a bunch of food I probably shouldn’t have had but, y’know, guest!
- Monday I rode a horse for the first time in my life. I wrote about it here. We also visited downtown Asheville–yes, I made the obligatory stop at The Chocolate Fetish, although I forced myself to only get one thing there, a single dark chocolate and sea salt caramel–and I spent time going over a bunch of puzzle types with her, as she’s new to the whole paper-puzzles thing.
- Tuesday was game night back home, but I took the opportunity to write up the horseback outing. I decided to do something different stylistically, treating it as a story rather than the looser form of a blog entry, and inasmuch as that sort of thing “works,” well, it seemed to work; a couple of people were surprised to learn that “Along for the ride” wasn’t just a short story of my own devising. Which, I mean, I guess it is? Just not a fictional one.
- Said game night was spent playing Spirit Island, which was fun and frustrating and fascinating in roughly equal measure. We lost, although I feel we hung on considerably longer than I felt we would after a terrible start. I’ve already decided that it’ll be making the trip back home for the holidays; I want to get more plays in.
- Wednesday was mostly spent in and around town, starting with lunch in Hickory (Vietnamese, yum) and including a stop at a local antiques store so that my cousin could pick up some knick-knacks to bring home. We went up into the mountains for a bit, hiking a scrap of the Green Knob Trail before the sun got too low.
- An early start Thursday had us back up in the mountains. We hiked Linville Falls and Mount Mitchell, which was… perhaps a bit more than we should have done, given that neither of us are at peak levels of stamina. But it felt good exerting myself in a way that I basically hadn’t done since I retired, and my cousin was duly proud of her own efforts. The day closed out all the way down in Charlotte at The Glow, which was fine if a bit underwhelming. The carvings were amazing, but they had to all be at a distance behind ropes to keep kids from messing with them, which made the experience feel rather detached. Still, it was the sort of thing I never would have done on my own, and I’m glad my cousin dragged me to it.
I slept like a rock most evenings this week thanks to high levels of physical exertion, and although I had a great time, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to next week being a quiet one.
This morning was the first time this fall that the temperature dropped in my house overnight below my AC settings. I have never been so prepared for autumn.
- The mad reads continue. I did a rare re-read of a library book this week, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, because I had also checked out the sequel. To be fair, I didn’t know for sure it was a reread until the first page, when I went “this seems strangely familiar,” sending me digging through my library history. It was worth re-reading, though; it’s basically a more comic (and less cosmic) take on the premise of The Laundry Files, which is one of my favorite series of all time. The sequel was good, too. That said, the real star of this week is the book I finished about twenty minutes ago, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It was very, very good. I cried a lot.
- Quite a few puzzles, too, although the pace slowed down during the week as I realized that I have a lot of reading to do if I want to be done with the stacks before November starts. That’s almost certainly not gonna happen, but I have to try the best I can.
- The same goes for television; I’ve managed to watch an episode of Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine most days, but it’s been a while since I watched one of Luke Cage, and I haven’t picked up another dramatic show either. That’s fine, though; I’m never going to feel bad about minimizing my time spent watching TV.
- The only real event this week: there was a Hallowe’en shindig at my old workplace this Friday evening, and I finagled a +1 from someone. It was nice to see folks–particularly the kitchen staff, who I miss like hell–even if I kept getting asked when I was coming back. I’m glad I went, though. It gave me an opportunity to taste a cherry-flavored Hint water as well. They’re great.
Next week will be quite eventful; I have a cousin coming into the area for vacation, and we’ll be doing touristy stuff while she’s around. Should be fun! And then NaNoWriMo’s right around the corner…
This’ll be a short one; it was a very quiet week.
- Reading continues apace, although I got “stuck” for a bit on The Two Georges, an alt-history novel by Richard Dreyfuss (yes, the actor) and Harry Turtledove, who I assume did all the actual writing. It was a just-fine book, honestly; the real problem was that it was a 1000+ page book in a 450-page binding, which meant the font was tiny and single spaced. It took a lot of energy to read.
- Continued watching The Last Man on Earth, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Luke Cage. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch another episode of OITNB.
- More puzzles, including a ridiculously hard Slitherlink that, I think, has permanently turned me off of the ones in the Gakken publications. There’s “interestingly hard” and then there’s “requires flat-out guessing or psychic powers,” and a few too many of their puzzles are of the latter type. It’s a shame, because I find even the hardest ones by Nikoli pretty trivial at this point, but I’m not willing to beat my head against those crazy-hard ones, so…
- Nothing meaningful on the videogame front. I did learn that Zen got the license for Bally/Williams tables after The Pinball Arcade lost it, which has me very excited; I much prefer the polish of the Zen tables, so seeing them do real pinball rather than the fantasy tables they usually do will be very interesting.
Like I said, a very quiet week indeed, perhaps the most “just the usual” week I’ve had since I retired. No complaints here, though! Other than that there’s no way I’m gonna get through my stack of books before NaNoWriMo starts in a few weeks…