Weekly status update [0036/????]

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…

Weekly status update [0035/????]

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 EarthBrooklyn 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…

Weekly status update [0034/????]

This is another hell of a week, but at least (mostly) not for me?  Thin comfort.

  • The trilogy that started with Ninefox Gambit stayed mostly excellent, although I wasn’t completely enamored with the conclusion.  Still, worth a read.  I also read a bunch of other books too.
  • Other book notes the first: I actually quite liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is apparently Not The In Thing, but whatever.  (I’ll freely admit that its core “schtick” is one I’ve thought a lot about, which alters my judgment.)
  • Other book notes the second: Fortune Smiles is a fantastic short story collection by Adam Johnson.  One of the stories is very dark, but it warns you pretty close to the start, and if you read the book in chronological order you’ll be warned earlier anyhow.  This was another one of those “pick it up at random in the library” books that I almost certainly wouldn’t have ever picked on my own, so: yay library displays!
  • Other book notes the third: I’m in the middle of reading Harlan Ellison’s seminal sf collection Dangerous Visions; I can see how it would have been pretty damn transgressive in the late Sixties, although with the benefit of hindsight it occasionally has a whiff of Trying Too Hard.  Most of the stories are excellent, though, and as a whole it holds up impressively well.  My favorite bit so far isn’t one of the stories at all, but Ellison’s introduction where he tears into the whiny Old Guard and their complaints about how the new sf just isn’t the same as the old.  The fact that it could be taken almost verbatim as a tear-down of the modern “crisis” in sf that, for a while, centered around the whole Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy/etc. thing is delightful.  Everything old is new again, kids.
  • Despite continuing to read at a rapid pace, I also continue to check out library books at an even more rapid rate.  Half of my couch is covered in them.  I have thirty-five checked out right now, many of them huge tomes full of short stories that will take me forever to finish.  what am I doing
  • We had an extended game night Tuesday.  We played Concordia, one of my favorite games, and I did very poorly, coming in last.  Part of that was an idiotic play on my part in one of the final turns that cost me something like fifteen points.  I acted like a complete jerk at the end, though, so… I’m afraid I’m not a lot better about that whole situation than I was when I wrote about it last.  Ugh.  I’m not happy with myself about that.
  • Finished up Bojack Horseman season 5, which was amazing, and Jessica Jones season 2, which was… fine… I guess.  Started on Luke Cage season 2 and Orange is the New Black season 5.  I may actually drop that last one, which is veering dangerously close to the sort of “everything is miserable and you get to watch” modern take on TV that I just can’t handle.
  • I weighed myself on Thursday for the first time in, uh, almost a year, I guess?  I’m at 271 pounds; my best guess for how much I weighed when I started on this diet in late April is somewhere between 330 and 360 pounds, so I’ve lost something in the 60-90 pound range over a bit more than five months.  (In case you’re wondering, my goal weight is 180, which is technically overweight from a BMI standpoint but is actually on the line where I go from looking healthy to looking less so.)  That’s pretty damn good progress, even though I’ve got a long way to go.  I was also reminded that I should never, ever own a scale.  They ruin my  will with the irregular ups-and-downs.
  • Lots of puzzles, too; I’m finally getting to a point where I’m relatively confident in my Kakuro solving, and I continue to work on several other books and magazines on a one-off basis.
  • No prose, although I did finish up my Guide to the Cardpocalypse series.
  • I also came up with the core idea for my NaNoWriMo novel.  My current plan is to share that here as I write it (although probably not as body text, which would be overwhelming).  We’ll see if I still feel that way come November.
  • Mostly just the usual on the videogame front, although the launch of Hollow Knight on the PS4 made me buy it (again) and play it, since I find that sort of game way more suited to a big TV and recliner than my computer.  If you like Metroidvanias, I strongly recommend it.

Well, that was excessively long, so, uh… until next time!

Weekly status update [0033/????]

What a week.

  • Saturday, Sunday, and Monday: the storm that didn’t really hit us.  I had thoughts.
  • Most of my weekend time–and, actually, most of my time during the week as well–was spent reading.  I think I read something like twelve novels in the last seven days; I know for a fact that I read three just yesterday.  It was nice.  I particularly want to note the three Seanan McGuire novellas that start with Every Heart a Doorway and the three Ben H. Winters novels that start with The Last Policeman.  They were all particularly pleasant reads.  I’m currently in the middle of Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, the first in another trilogy.  It had a bit of an impenetrable start, but I’m over halfway through it and enjoying it thoroughly now.
  • I also got back (at least temporarily) into watching television.  It’s Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the morning, then the just-released season of Bojack Horseman and season two of Jessica Jones in the afternoon.  Both of those are almost done, though; I’ll move onto Luke Cage for sure, and probably finally start the second season of Fargo as well.
  • Several of my old coworkers (and some that would be new, were I still working) were in town this week, and I was invited to a pair of group events.  Those were nice, but honestly the best evening was Tuesday, which involved just three of us having a long conversation about science fiction over dinner at the best local Tex-Mex place.  It’s always nice to catch up with folks, but I do much better in small groups than I do in large ones, and I’m delighted that someone reached out to plan that dinner.  (Thanks, Mike!)
  • The downside of said dinner: despite getting through a dozen novels this week, my library stack actually grew (in word count, if not volumes) thanks to suggestions-slash-recommendations from that extended conversation. Sigh.
  • Puzzles provided a nice series of interrupts over the course of the week.  Not just for me, too; I had Amazon ship a fat stack of puzzle books to one of my cousins back home, who had expressed interest in them back when I visited in April, and spent a couple of hours on the phone over the course of the week helping her work through some of them.  She seems pretty hooked, which gives me a good feeling.  Puzzles are awesome.
  • Nothing exciting on the video game front, though; I’m mostly taking a break after the heavy Creeper World action from the past few weeks, just maintaining my dailies in the handful of free-to-play games I still muck around with.  I really, really need to put Let It Die to bed.

I’ll finish up my Cardpocalypse series this coming week.  I know my tiny readership isn’t big on commenting, but: this is your final chance to get me to cover anything you think I’ve missed.  So, uh, get on that, I guess?

Weekly status update [0032/????]

I’m writing this one early, since it’s entirely possible that by the end of today I’ll be without power for a week or so.  That’s what I get for thinking that western North Carolina is all that different from Louisiana…

  • Speaking of which, a non-trivial amount of time this week was spent on preparations for Florence.  I bought a bunch of low-carb snacks, along with a lot of liquids (read: Coke Zero and, as an even bigger treat, Ginger Lime Diet Coke) to add thermal mass to my fridge, which is usually almost completely bare.  Charged spare phones and, vitally, my Kindle Paperwhite; checked out a metric ton of books from the library, washed every scrap of clothing I have, et cetera.  I’m as prepped as I’m likely to get.  Now it’s just a matter of lasting through the storm.
  • My reading binge continued, albeit at a bit of a slower pace.  Noir wasn’t as good as The Serpent of Venice (both by Christopher Moore); I actually really liked the latter, although I have no particular attachment to either The Merchant of Venice or Othello.  I thought it was quite a bit better than Fool, even.  Now I’m working on The Black Opera by Mary Gentle, which is good if dense… and glancing over at the 25 (!) other books I have checked out.  Woof.
  • I also played quite a bit on the computer.  Specifically, I finished off Creeper World 2 and its free Flash sequel CW2: Academy.  I really liked it, although the time pressures in a couple of the levels were very non-traditional for the series.  If you’re a fan of tower-defense-y RTS-y turtle-y indie-y games, the series will provide many hours of fun for not a lot of money.  It’s available on Steam.  Now to see if I can get Particle Fleet: Emergence working…
  • Still haven’t touched the code for Dudes.  Life got a little more hectic slash stressful than I like for jumping into something with that level of complexity.
  • I did find time to watch a couple more episodes of Jessica Jones, which seems to finally be picking up steam halfway through the season.  And the new episodes of BoJack Horseman dropped just this morning.  I watched the first one and see no reason to believe it won’t continue to be, for my money, the best show currently “on television” (whatever that means in the streaming era).
  • My order of puzzle books from Turkey finally came in after spending over a week in Customs.  I’m super-stoked about them; there seem to be lots of neat, interesting puzzles inside, even if some of them (like the traditional logic problems) will be forever cut off to me since I don’t read Turkish.  It’s every issue of the magazine ever published, and they only cost me $2 apiece even with shipping halfway around the planet, which goes to show just how big a price disparity there is on these sorts of things.

Right now I’m sitting in my comfy recliner, watching the wind steadily pick up in speed outside while I prepare to curl up with a book for a while.  I’ll post again here later this weekend, assuming I can.  See you on the other side!

Weekly status update [0031/????]

After the (relatively) busy times of last week, we’re back to something rather more like my usual speed.

  • I read a lot.  A lot.  I still have a stack of a good dozen books I checked out at the library (which prompted me to write my paean to the institution earlier this week), but on the whole I made a bunch of forward progress.  Most of it was fiction; Lamb by Christopher Moore stood out, although it suffers from the problem that those most likely to get the most out of it are also those most likely to never, ever read it.  The sole non-fiction book was Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, which was impressively readable.  I typically take two to four times longer to read non-fiction, but I tore through Peak in a single afternoon.
  • I also watched a whole bunch of TV for basically the first time in months.  For whatever reason I was in the mood to give The Good Place a shot; cue spending much of three days tearing through both already-aired seasons.  It’s extraordinarily good, probably the most clever show I’ve seen in years, with a bunch of genuine laugh-out-loud moments and a stellar cast.  Most impressive (to me) is the showing that the main actors who aren’t Ted Danson and Kristen Bell make; I had never heard of Jameela Jamil, not being British, and she is absolutely fantastic in her role as a do-gooder aristo.  The real find–I assume everyone in Britain already knew of her awesomeness–is William Jackson Harper, who plays against Bell’s “banality of mediocre not-quite-evil” with a combination of exasperation and existential dread that is absolutely pitch-perfect.  Never has the word “what?” had such an impact.  I don’t want to write an article on the show, because to really cover what I’d like to cover it’d be spoiler-y as heck, but if you haven’t watched it yet: what the fork are you doing?
  • After getting my second Burnout Paradise Platinum trophy (per my past article, the game thankfully only has one really stupid one), I went back to mostly just playing my daily free-to-play stuff on my PS4.  The computer’s another matter, though; I’ve been on a huge “old strategy game” kick, playing the original Heroes of Might and Magic and Warlords and other games of that ilk.  Most of the time has been with Creeper World 2, which is… wildly different from the first and third games, not just in raw design–the side-view thing is a big twist–but also in its heavy use of timed stages.  Lots of fun, though.
  • Other than all of that, just the typical “spending too much on games I don’t need,” on both the digital and board-type front.  You know, the usual.
  • I haven’t touched the code for Dosat yet.  Soon.

To be fair, after the relative excitement of last week, it was nice to mostly just curl up with a stack of books and get my literature on.  Which I will likely continue this coming week… to my distinct pleasure.

Weekly status update [0030/????]

A busier week than usual, that’s for sure.

  • I spent a non-trivial amount of time this week playing Burnout Paradise Remastered on my PS4.  I spent something like 60-70 hours in the game back on the PS3, and it was a delight to play it again… although I don’t plan on doing nearly everything there is to do in the game like I did back then.  Racing games generally leave me cold, but there’s something about Paradise that makes it a delight to play.  Except for the fact that it plays “Paradise City” every time it boots up.  Ugh.  I have to mute the TV each time I start the game.
  • We had a board game night Tuesday at Fercott.  We played the second edition of London; previously, I enthused about the game, and I still think it’s really good, but I also think that you probably shouldn’t play it with more than three people, and really two is best.  There’s too much “luck of the draw” for the result to be very stable at four.  (I’m not just saying this because I got crushed… but I got crushed.)
  • I spent much of Wednesday up in the hills and mountains with a friend; we went to Wiseman’s View.  A non-trivial amount of the trip’s time was spent on the barely-maintained gravel road leading to the View, and we were the only people there, which was a bit surprising; the day was beautiful, if warm, and the sight down into the gorge utterly stunning.  I had a really good time.  It was nice actually getting out in the woods and into the sun; as I lose weight, my desire to take up hiking is beginning to grow again.  Perhaps next season.
  • I went to the library Thursday to get a single book I had on hold and ended up with ten, which went into a stack with a bunch of other books I’m behind on reading (mostly thanks to Burnout Paradise Remastered).  I’m almost done with one today, though, and plan on tearing through much of the rest in short order.  Libraries are awesome and people don’t use them nearly enough.
  • The programming urge has been growing steadily stronger, so I finally steeled myself and bugged Donald X. Vaccarino (of Dominion fame) to release a game he wrote for himself as open source.  He actually went for it, to my mild surprise.  It’s written in Object Pascal with some very old DOS graphics and mouse tech; my current plan is to basically rewrite it 1:1 in C so that it’ll actually be maintainable into the foreseeable future.  Once I get that done I’ll look into actual improvements to the game itself.  I haven’t actually started coding on it yet; I plan to begin with some of the tools he wrote to mess with the data files, so as to get my feet wet again.  But I am excited!
  • I watched the first episode of Jack Ryan, mostly to get the Twitch bits.  It was… fine?  I mean, I love Wendell Pierce to bits, and after seeing A Quiet Place I’m down with John Krasinski in serious roles, but it sure feels not nearly enough removed from the torture porn of 24 for my liking.  I may watch another episode or two… or I may not, given how little TV I’ve managed these last couple of months.  We’ll see.

So, yeah, lots of stuff going on this past week, including some things I hadn’t done in ages.  I look forward to working on the game, reading these books, and, y’know, in general continuing to chip away at the infinite rock face of “things I want to do.”  As one does.

Weekly status update [0029/????]

Let’s get right into it.

  • As mentioned before, my shoulder was acting up all week.  Fortunately it seems almost completely better now.  I’m still going to take it easy for another day or two, minimizing my time at the computer and with a controller, because boy howdy did it suck for a while there.
  • Due to the aforementioned shoulder issues, I ended up spending most of the week reading rather than playing games.  I finished Christopher Moore’s Secondhand Souls, which was good but not as good (or captivating) as A Dirty Job, a book I read in a single sitting a week or two ago.  Then I picked up Golden Witchbreed by Mary Gentle and read it from cover-to-cover in a single day.  I’m currently working on its sequel, which seems like it will also be excellent.
  • One of my old coworkers moved out of town this week to go back home to his family (and a job much closer to home).  We spent basically the entire weekend playing board games; Saturday was just the two of us, with his son joining on Sunday after he flew in.  It was a good time.  The two new-to-me games that we played were Cinque Terre, which was fine if rather slight, and Keltis: Das Kartenspiel.  On the face of it, the latter game is pretty ridiculous: it’s a card game adaptation of a board game (Keltis) which itself is an adaptation of a card game (Lost Cities).  Instead of being a third-generation blurry photocopy, though, it’s actually a pretty fascinating tactical game on its own, and the fact that it supports more than two players means that it could potentially hit the table more often than Lost Cities in some gaming groups.  I need more time with it to establish a firmer opinion, but I liked the game of it we played.
  • The big thing that happened this past week was my coming along to my old work’s Summer Outing as an old friend’s “+1” on Friday.  The weather was stunningly nice, hovering around 80°F and with low humidity; we were at a combination pavilion-greens-lakeshore thing, and the water in the pool was just the right level of cool to feel infinitely refreshing.  It was nice to see a bunch of old faces again, including the kitchen staff, who I miss dearly.  I had a really good time… and a much better one than the last time we were at the same venue, four years ago, when I jumped into the pool with my phone, destroyed it, and then got paged by work and had to spend the rest of the trip furiously fixing remote issues rather than having a good time.
  • I also managed to have a few games hit the table while on said outing.  The only new one was Lost Cities: Rivals, yet another game in the Lost Cities/Keltis franchise.  It was… fascinating, with a bidding mechanic that is wholly new to the series, and I didn’t really wrap my head around it by the end of the game.  I still managed to win, somehow, but we also weren’t playing by the rules entirely (it was a first game and I was rushing, as we had to leave soon).  I look forward to playing it a little more deliberately… and correctly… in the future.
  • I didn’t get burned at all despite spending a lot of the day in the sun!  Woot!  That… might be a first?

Despite the frustrating health issues, it was a nice week, with more board gaming than I’ve done in the last few months, and a lot of time spent with people I like.  What more can one ask for?

Weekly status update [0028/????]

This was a week that even I found surprisingly quiet.

  • After over a month of off-and-on effort, I finally managed to order a bunch of back issues of Akıl Oyunları, a Turkish puzzle magazine that comes highly rated from several people.  It’s basically impossible to get in the United States without some serious shenanigans.  Whether they’ll actually arrive successfully at my house or not is another matter entirely…
  • I actually watched a tiny bit of television this past week, namely two or three more episodes of the second season of Jessica Jones.  It definitely got better from the first, rather dire, one.  I’m still not sure it’s good, and it definitely comes across as particularly weak after the fantastic first season, but I’m going to finish it off… if only so that I can watch the second season of Luke Cage.
  • I even watched a couple of movies, another rare event for me.  The Avengers: Infinity War was pretty much exactly what I suspected it’d be; I don’t want to talk about it too much, for fear of spoilers, but I can imagine some people who aren’t aware of comic book tropes were Real Shook Up by that ending.  I also watched A Quiet Place, which was excellent.  It had a couple of silly bits, but overall it was a finely-crafted bit of horror.  It’s basically Signs but only 5% as stupid.
  • After working on it off-and-on for well over a year, I saw the end credits of Picross 3D Round 2… which unlocked a whole other set of puzzles.  Heh.  This wasn’t surprising to me, as that result had already been spoiled… and I hadn’t gotten the final score emblem yet even though I’ve received a perfect score in every level.  I’m taking the post-game easy, though, as I solved a lot of puzzles in a rush to get there, and it’s one of the few videogames that actually hurts a bit to play, due to the weird claw grip you have to hold the 3DS in.
  • I’m not playing this one, but Landail is: he’s made it to Panzer Dragoon Saga, a game I played back in the late ’90s or early ’00s on a loaned copy from a friend.  It goes for over a thousand bucks now (!!).  I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t hold up to my memory… but, no, it’s still a beautiful, well-designed game.  Phew.  Sometimes it’s not Happy Sappy Delusion Syndrome muddling your memories of the past.  It’s been a blast to watch.
  • I actually made more-than-single-line changes to Giles over the past week.  Nothing too exciting, mind, but it required me to actually look at some Python documentation, which is more of a commitment than I had made to programming in quite a while.

As is often true for a quiet week, I still somehow figure out how to write several hundred words…

Weekly status update [0027/????]

A week past the six-month mark, and… well, other than that particular milestone, it’s been a pretty bog-standard sort of thing.

  • I’ve been having fun writing my Guide to the Cardpocalypse, and plan on writing the first one that actually covers games tomorrow or Monday–it’s going to be on trick-takers–so if you have Opinions you want to Express, now’s the time.
  • A lot of reading this week, but not of the book variety.  Instead I read through a couple of very good Let’s Play threads.  For those unfamiliar, a Let’s Play is a playthrough of a particular game–in this case, early Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest games, along with the original Master of Orion–done by someone who is usually very familiar with that game.  They show off the inner workings, interesting strategies, and hidden bits.  Most modern Let’s Plays are done in video on YouTube; some huge Internet personalities like PewDiePie (ugh) got their start in the format.  But the original form was a combination of text and screenshots in a forum (most famously the Something Awful forum, which I won’t link for… pretty much the same reasons I didn’t link PewDiePie above), and that’s the format I like the most.  It’s easy to pick up and put down, and I read way faster than I watch video, even at 1.5x speed.  If this sounds at all interesting to you, check out the Let’s Play Archive and find some game you’ve always been interested in.
  • Also actually playing games on my own, mostly Let It Die, where I continue to delay my storming of the endgame for no good reason other than that I’m scared, but also some Dead Cells now that it’s out on consoles.  Yeah, that means I bought the game twice, which is dumb, but I really like playing it on my big TV with my PS4 controller.
  • Had dinner with friends not once but twice over the week, which was nice.  Particularly since one of the meals was with someone who moved to Europe in the last few months–it was nice to catch up–and the other was with someone who is moving away soon; another opportunity to socialize with people before they leave is always nice.
  • One of those dinners ended up being not-the-best for my diet, though, so I’ve been playing it tighter for the rest of the week.  I’ve (sadly) gotten used to going to bed hungry, but it’s necessary to help get my “desire to eat everything under the eaves” under control, which (like all addictions) has a nasty habit of springing up with just the slightest provocation.  I’m actually genuinely curious at this point as to how much I weigh now; I don’t know how much I had gotten up to, but I have a rough idea.  I’m not going to seek out a scale, though.  Regular weighing has been one of several things that has completely ruined my self-control due to over-correction.
  • Other than some more time with Picross 3D Round 2, I didn’t do much in the way of puzzles… but I did finally get a lead on getting a bunch of back issues of a particular Turkish puzzle magazine that comes very highly recommended.  (Don’t look at me like that.  I already have a ton of Japanese puzzle magazines; why not Turkish too?)  I’m waiting to hear back from the publisher/editor.  The magazines themselves will be dirt cheap.  It’s gonna be the shipping that’s killer.

The weather’s been uncommonly pleasant here in North Carolina, not but not crazily so, although the off-and-on rain makes it hard to enjoy.  I’ll take it, though, along with the lassitude of my current lifestyle.  It’s been a very different August than my last twenty or so, that’s for sure.  And that’s a good thing.