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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Half a year in. Woof. Let’s jump right in.
- I made up for lost time on reading this past week; the first book (Ninth City Burning) was fun but slight. The second, A Dirty Job, was so good that I read the whole thing in a single sitting, something I hadn’t done in ages. Christopher Moore is always at least interesting and funny, but A Dirty Job was also very engaging, as evidenced by the fact that I couldn’t put it down. Good stuff.
- As mentioned here previously, we had a game night Tuesday that led to me starting a new series of articles about card games. I’ll be writing another one up soon on card-playing etiquette before we jump into the games proper. I’m still looking for feedback on what games you think should be part of the Guide to the Cardpocalypse.
- I actually watched the tiniest bit of television this week, a single episode of Jessica Jones. It was better than the first, which was good. I have a lot of catching up to do with the Marvel Netflix series, not to mention everything else… but honestly I’d generally much rather read, play games, watch other people play games, or do puzzles.
- Speaking of puzzles, while I didn’t do a whole lot in any magazines, I picked my Nintendo 3DS back up and did a bunch more of Picross 3D: Round 2. It’s an excellent game, really hampered only by the clawlike way you have to hold the 3DS to be able to hit all the buttons; my hands actually cramp up after solving a puzzle or two, an issue I don’t have with any other puzzle games. I’m close to the end, though, so I’m likely going to try and muddle through in the coming week or two.
- I broke my diet somewhat for the first time since I started; I just really really needed some General Tso’s chicken on Thursday, and topped it off with jalapeño poppers. It was delicious, and I suspect that one moment of weakness will help make the next several months easier. I’m not really craving anything right now the way I was before… other than the always-persistent Ghost of Carbs Past moaning in the back of my head, but I’ve gotten good at ignoring that particular bugaboo.
Half a year. I’m definitely going to write something up this coming week about what it’s been like so far, but just in case you were worried: still not bored.
A pleasantly quiet week, punctuated with some quiet pleasantness.
- As mentioned in my rant earlier this week, I finished up Final Fantasy XIII after years of having it hang over my head. I then immediately started playing it again from the start. I’ll probably write a “Here’s a Thing” about it soonish, but: it’s a lot better than people think. Except for the trophies. Damn the trophies.
- We had the first extended game night in ages at Fercott Fermentables on Tuesday. We played Power Grid at Jase’s request; despite him having never played the game, he won on the first tiebreaker, with Chad in second. Power Grid is a stone cold classic board game, and I enjoy it every time I play, although in this particular game I knew I was going to lose and lose badly about halfway through. Good times, though, with great company and a good atmosphere.
- I have a big stack of books from the library but haven’t made a huge dent in them yet due to playing too many video games instead. I did finally read/look at/gape at Banksy’s Wall and Piece, which Chad kindly loaned me. It’s a gorgeous piece of art full of gorgeous (and sad, and clever, and all other sorts of things) pieces of art. One of my favorite touches: a lot of the pieces have either how long it took to paint them–sometimes crazy short amounts of time–or how long they lasted before getting painted over or removed.
- The diet continues to go well, inasmuch as I’m pretty sure I’m still losing weight and I’m definitely still managing keto. I intentionally didn’t weigh myself when I started and still haven’t, due to my tendency to obsess over slight variations in the short-term numbers when long-term trends are the important part, but the key “clothes fit better” index is going strong.
- Speaking of personal health, neither my back nor my wrists have been acting up recently, which is a very pleasant state of affairs. I suspect the former is at least partly due to the continued weight loss; not sure about the wrists, but I’m not gonna knock it either.
All in all, a pleasant week, with the sadly-too-rare pleasure of an excellent board game evening in the middle. I… should really try and do something to make those happen more often, but I’m not sure what. Now, though, it’s time to get back to reading on this quiet Saturday, which is actually a whole lot like what I would have been doing on most Saturdays before retirement anyhow. Funny how that works.
Hey, look, I’m actually writing this on Friday for a change!
- I finally, finally finished up Diablo III‘s Platinum trophy on my PS4. I promptly uninstalled the game afterwards. I need to write a post at some point about how unhealthy “trophy culture” is, particularly because just about every game has one or two absolutely idiotic trophies that make what is otherwise a delightful experience miserable. For Diablo III, that was the “do 500 bounties” trophy: it was a tremendous amount of boring busywork. Fortunately…
- …I did many of said bounties while watching Twitch. I still watch Landail on the regs, and I’ve also started watching quite a bit of Sinatar, who mostly plays old PC RPGs, for much the same reason: a chill pace and a sense of actual community in chat.
- With Diablo III done, I picked Shining in the Darkness back up again with some more seriousness. I’ve made quite a bit more progress in the game, and am still very much enjoying the act of mapping the game on actual graphing paper. There’s something deeply satisfying about looking at the stack of maps I’ve drawn that staring at a map on GameFAQs just doesn’t match.
- I’ve been reading a lot too. In fact, the only thing I picked up on Prime Day was a shiny new Kindle Paperwhite. I’m not a huge fan of it being touch-only, but I can’t deny that it is a lot easier to read thanks to the LCD backlighting. Getting all of my books onto it was a hassle, since they’re spread across my Amazon account and my computer (yes, before you tech people ask, I use Calibre), but I got everything back up and running the way I like it. That said, my current efforts are geared towards a fat stack of books I checked out from the library, including a whole lot of Christopher Moore that I missed out on in the last fifteen years or so.
- I went to a dinner thing Thursday night. The company was good and I got to play board games for the first time in something like a month, which was a pleasure, even if they were all very casual games. The Mind continues to be fascinating, and I got to play CrossTalk for the first time, which plays a lot like the old TV show Password, with the key twist being that the other team guesses when your team captain gives clues. This makes the game a fascinating game of chicken on the part of the captains. It was a lot of fun and way more interesting than even I had suspected it would be, and that was without the advanced “gamers’ rules”.
- The dentist was was fine. Expensive, but fine.
It was a pretty good week, on the balance; I cleared a couple of irritating things off of my plate and got to play board games with people, so, y’know: pretty peak retirement living.
A pretty quiet week, overall.
- Still very light on the TV (I watched maybe two episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and no puzzles at all.
- Video games, though, I played a lot. I spent an entire day playing Let It Die, and played a lot of it in the gaps throughout the week too. I also made a lot of progress in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood; I’ve set aside Horizon: Zero Dawn for the moment. I made some more progress in Shining in the Darkness as well, but didn’t play it a whole lot.
- I also read quite a bit. I tore through Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential for the first time; I feel that writing up an article on it is a little too much whistling past the graveyard, given his recent passing, but it’s an excellent autobiography and excoriation of the restaurant business. I never really watched any of Bourdain’s shows, but having read the book I’m actually more interested in them now.
- We had an extended game night Tuesday. It gave me something of an epiphany.
- I was more social than I usually am; along with the board games on Tuesday, I went to A Thing Saturday night, had a friend hang out most of the day Sunday, and had dinner with an old coworker just a few hours ago this Friday evening. It was nice seeing everyone.
- I spent a lot of time working on my music collection. I’m still way, way behind on having it all nice and tidy, but every little bit counts.
- Down a size on my pants: keto, woo!
Yeah; nothing terribly exciting, that’s for sure. But I’m still very content with the slow rhythms of my retirement nineteen weeks in. This bodes very well for the future.