Half-remembered creaks

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I made it back to Baton Rouge safe and sound after  a very, very long day of driving Saturday, and I’ve been choosing to spend my time elsewhere rather than staying at the computer so much.

Normally, when I come back home–and while I do think of Louisiana as “back home”, I think of my house in Lenoir as home, which is an interesting distinction I hadn’t really realized I made until recently–I try to pack in as many restaurants and as many visits with old friends as possible.  Not so much this time around.  I haven’t even made it to my favorite restaurant in the worldquelle horreur!  Normally it’s the first stop when my mother picks me up from the airport, before we even go home to drop off the luggage.

Part of it is that I really want to take it easier than I usually do.  Now that I’m retired, I suspect I’ll be coming back home twice a year rather than just once, and those stays are likely to be longer.  So there’s less of a need to pack it all in, to make the experience the most time-efficient thing possible, to ensure maximum value.

Part of it is that I’ve also decided to take a more passive role this time; normally I do a lot of coordination to make visits and meals and all that jazz happen.  I’m not doing that this year.  I’ve let everyone know that I’m in town and available for meals; if they choose not to follow up on that, well, I’m just as content eating at home and solving some puzzles or watching a movie with Mom.  I hung out with one of my old friends all day Monday, and will be doing so again this coming Saturday, interspersed with the usual family visits.  If people really want to see me, they can put in some minimal effort to make it happen.  I’m not going to force the issue.

So far it’s been an extremely pleasant trip.  My timing was always meant to make sure I caught the tail end of the cool season, when it’s not too wet yet but the days aren’t face-meltingly hot either.  It worked perfectly.  I spent most of yesterday reading on a swing on the porch, a cool breeze sweeping through the whole time, and today is genuinely chilly.  A month from now and Louisiana is going to be hot and sticky.  No thanks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read.

Weekly status update [0008/????]

I’m writing this right before crashing out early for tomorrow’s trip; I plan on getting up at 5:30am and hitting the road by 6am so that I can get into Baton Rouge at something resembling a reasonable hour.  We’ll see how well I manage.

  • In preparation for the aforementioned trip, I picked up a Samsung Chromebook 3 from Amazon this week.  My full assessment will have to wait until I’m back, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  It even natively supports Colemak, which came as a pleasant surprise.
  • Speaking of which, my wrists are behaving quite a bit better… or, at least, they were, until I was lazy last night and didn’t put them on before going to bed.  Sigh.  I plan on wearing them for at least most of the day tomorrow, which should help some, but I’ve got to stop doing that.  It’s not doing me any favors.
  • Not a lot of gaming this week, other than the usual little stabs at the various free-to-play games you’ve gotta do every day to keep up with the grind.
  • Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had a couple of old coworkers/friends over on a whim yesterday afternoon, and we had a blast playing video pinball (both Pinball FX 3 and The Pinball Arcade) along with the perennial Towerfall Ascension.
  • I went to a farewell dinner for one of my old teammates; they’re moving to Raleigh, which makes me sad to see them go, but I suspect they’re going to be a lot happier there from a social perspective.  It’s rather too quiet here for most people.
  • (Re)read some more of the Culture series, watched a few more episodes of The Punisher, solved more puzzles.  Steady state, in other words.

Now to try and get some sleep.  I usually have a lot of trouble sleeping the night before traveling, but I hope that won’t be the case this evening, particularly given how much less stressed I am about this trip than, uh, any other one in living memory.  I guess it’s time to find out!

That common child’s refrain

Now that I’ve gone and decided that I’m taking a trip back to Louisiana this weekend, I’m stressed out.

Unlike, well, just about any trip I can ever remember taking, though, it’s not the stress of the unknown, the stress of uncertainty; I’ve written about that before, and it’s definitely a huge problem for me, but no.  This is the stress of already wanting to be there.  To set out as early as possible tomorrow morning, not waiting until Saturday, and booking it hard back home.

That’s the wrong thing to do; for one, it puts me in Friday traffic in Atlanta, and I’m pretty sure I’d rather punch myself in the face repeatedly than deal with that utter mess.  And my mail hold doesn’t start until Saturday, and I still need to pack, and and and… but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m antsy.

As irritating as this is, it’s actually a really good thing.  I literally can’t remember ever being rarin’ to go on a trip.  Even the one that took me here to North Carolina, five-and-some years ago, was mostly filled with apprehension; I thought that getting the job was some sort of huge mistake on the company’s part, and that I’d be found out as a fraud immediately, and have to return hat in hand to LSU in six months’ time.  (Turns out it took them five years or so to figure that out.)  And every trip since, whether it was for business (usually) or for personal reasons (rarely), made me stress out about all the ways it could go wrong.

And there’s nothing saying that my newly-fixed-up car won’t break down on Saturday as I head across five states, to be sure.  But I’m not worried about it.  And that’s a new, exciting feeling.

Preparations for launch

Now that I’ve got my car all fixed up and my taxes paid, I can do the one “big” thing I planned to do this spring: take a road trip back to Louisiana to visit family, with a stop in Arkansas to hang out with a friend for a few days.  My loose plans to do this became decidedly more concrete this weekend after conversations with both that friend and my mother, and I’ll be heading out Easter Saturday so that I can be back in Baton Rouge for Sunday.

For the first time in a long time, rather than feeling apprehensive about travel, I’m actually looking forward to it.  That despite the fact that it’s a 13ish-hour drive from where I live to my mother’s house; Saturday’s gonna be a long day.  But I’m not filled with the slowly growing feeling of worry and stress that usually accompanies any sort of travel that I do, and that’s exciting.

That’s not to say that I don’t have to make preparations.  (Ugh.  Double negatives.  I’m going to leave that the way it is, but now I can see why grade school English was so down on the form.)  I no longer have a work laptop, and I suspect I’ll want to check my email at least once or twice while I’m gone, so I ordered a cheap Chromebook last night; opinions on the device forthcoming once I take the trip.  I don’t have a car charger for my phone either, which uses USB C.  That was another late night Amazon order.  I didn’t actually go to bed until almost 5am last night as I kept thinking of things I needed to do.

But it’s a good busy, not a bad one, and I find myself actually anxious to go rather than anxious about going.  Maybe I’ll actually be able to do some semi-regular traveling now that I’m retired, if this turns out well.  That’d be a pleasant surprise discovery, that I actually like tooling around in my car and visiting people and places at the (relatively) leisurely pace that unemployment affords.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still finding out things about myself, this many years into my life, and yet here we are.

Now to figure out how many changes of clothes to bring…

Weekly status update [0007/????]

This post is a day late and, given taxes and the recent stock market behavior, decidedly more than a dollar short.  It was an intentionally light week, though, so I’ll keep it brief-ish.

  • Mostly, I read.  I finished rereading Excession at 2am this morning.  I think it’s still the Culture novel I’m most impressed with, although The Player of Games will always be my sentimental favorite.
  • When I wasn’t reading I was doing puzzles.  I’ve started working on a magazine full of multi-Sudoku, which adds a lot of variety to what can become a very samey solve process with regular Sudoku.  I also (after several years) finished the last interesting and doable puzzle in a particular issue of Nikoli Puzzle Communication; there are some puzzles left in the magazine, but they’re either Japanese word puzzles, have rules too inscrutable for me to decipher, or are Number Links, one of the very few puzzle types I just can’t stand.
  • Speaking of puzzles, I picked up Everett Kaser’s newest game, Mycroft’s Map, which I helped beta-test.  It’s as good as all of his other games.  I need to write an article about them someday…
  • I finished the fourth season of Transparent, which was good but not amazing; I’d be perfectly content if they never produce another episode of the show.  I also caught up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which went back on the air a month or so ago.  I need to watch The Punisher so I can watch season two of Jessica Jones, but I can’t quite bring myself to be excited about the first show.  Sigh.
  • We played Power Grid at Fercott Fermentables on Tuesday.  It was good.
  • I had dinner out a couple of times during the week, once at someone’s house, once at a nearby restaurant; in both cases, it was a good catching-up session with old friends and coworkers.

Now to curl up with Inversions, the next book in the series.  Reading: it’s awesome.

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.

Weekly status update [0006/????]

Weekly adulting level: High.

End-of-week energy level: So low.  So, so low.

  • I spent most of the week avoiding full day binges at the computer and PS4 in an attempt to baby my wrists given my long-running issues; it’s helped quite a bit, but I’m going to keep it up for another week at least.
  • Because of that, I haven’t been typing very much.  I’m still in the low 60s typing speed wise, which is simultaneously more than fast enough for… anything, really… and still so much slower than my traditional typing speed that it’s driving me nutso.  I wanted to start properly drilling this week with the help of gtypist, but I’ve only done a bit of that thanks to the whole wrist thing.  In a couple of weeks, though… yeah.
  • The visit to the ENT went really well, and I recommend seeing Dr. de Neef at Carolina Ear, Nose, and Throat if you need to see someone and don’t have a regular.
  • The other big bit of adulting was me getting all of my stuff together and bringing it (digitally) to H&R Block for that most dreaded of American traditions: taxes.  I did that yesterday, and found out today that I owe… a lot.  Nearly forty grand a lot.  The raw number was a bit shocking, but I knew it was going to be a huge tax bill, since I sold almost all of my tech company equity at the end of last year.  Still, ouch.
  • That said, with all three of those essentially done, I can now start planning for a multi-week road trip to Arkansas and Louisiana to visit friends and family.  I’m actually pretty excited about this!  Which is rare for me, because as I’ve mentioned before travel is most definitely not My Thing.  I’m looking forward to the languid “go whenever, leave whenever” possibilities for visits that being retired affords me, though.
  • I finished the second season of The Expanse, which was even better than the first.  Still working on Transparent, although I’m close to the end there too.  I really want to start on the second season of Jessica Jones next, but my completionist tendencies mean that I have to watch Punisher first.
  • My other big “not gaming, not computing” time sink has been a reread of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels.  I made it through the first two this week, and am already about 20% of the way into Use of Weapons, which remains the hardest one to reread.  (I’ve done this “read them all” thing a few times already.)  After Weapons, though, the rest of the series is smooth sailing.

…that’s a lot of text, and my arm is tweaking a bit, so I’ll stop there and settle back down with my book.  But, hey: progress on actual life things!

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.