Weekly status update [0019/????]

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.

Cardboard pushing down on me

Tonight was an extended game night, the first we’ve had in a while.  We played The Princes of Florence, one of my favorite games of all time.  And I was so stressed out the entire game that I’m a little surprised I didn’t have an actual panic attack.

I consider Android: Netrunner to be one of the finest game designs I’ve ever experienced.  I also just flat-out can’t play the game with any seriousness; the act of play stresses me out so much that I feel completely exhausted, wrung out, useless after even a single match with someone.  I enjoy teaching the game, but playing competitively?  I just can’t do it.

What do these two games have in common?

They’re both driven by knife’s edge decisions.  Winning or losing often hinges on bidding just once more–or not–in Princes, on making that daredevil run against an unknown server–or not–in ANR.  And they both have many of these kinds of decisions over the course of a single game.  Any one of them could secretly be the one that costs you the game, and both games make you painfully aware of this fact; it tends to be in the final accounting in Princes, but you often just flat-out lose ANR if you make the wrong choice.

This sort of super-tight decision-making process does not go well with my demeanor.  Anyone who has played more than a couple of board games with me learns two things pretty quickly:

  • I’m delighted to teach you a game and help you in your first couple of plays, and
  • I am really, really competitive once you know how to play.

I manage to hide a third thing most of the time in my adulthood, but sometimes it becomes obvious too:

  • I’m a sore loser.

This is a holdover from a childhood spent for the most part as the only kid in the family, a childhood where people made the crucial mistake of letting me win games that I shouldn’t have won just to keep me happy.  I have worked hard over the years to get over this particular problem, and I’d say I’m about 60% there at best.

It doesn’t help the situation that I’m pretty damn good at most board games, even when I’ve never played them before, and so have a high winning percentage; that just makes the voice in the back of my mind think that I deserve to win more, and makes it petulant when I don’t.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if part of why I love teaching games so much is that it is an inherently imbalanced situation: I’m more familiar with the game than the people I’m teaching, by definition, and so am all the more likely to win.  Ugh.  (Fortunately, I also enjoy teaching other things that aren’t about winning or losing, and love learning from people who know more than me, so I think I’m only somewhat horrible here, not completely so.  Still: ugh.)

So: tonight’s game of The Princes of Florence was with four other players.  Two were new to the game and two had played before.  One of the returning players got into a very good position by the second turn (of seven) in the game, and I didn’t like how the future looked from that point on until the absolute last moment of the game.  I was actually rocking on the bench where I sat the entire, a giant ball of stress-wires firing constantly in my head.  Said returning player commented that he had never seen me so freaked out at a game.  (It’s true; he and I never played competitive Android: Netrunner, or he would have seen it before.)

I ended up winning by a small handful of points, so the little voice in the back of my head says, hey, all that stress was worth it.  You won, right?  But that’s definitely wrong.  Like I told another of the players–one of the two who had never seen the game before, but who came in a strong third–I probably play at somewhere around 90% of my hypothetical “peak skill level” when I’m not stressed out and hyper-focused on the game, rather than the 99-100% when I am.   But the experience is at least ten times more enjoyable for me when I’m not buzzing in semi-terror at every move of the game.  Is performing 10% better at the cost of feeling like I need to take a two-hour cold shower afterwards worth it?  If lives were on the line, perhaps.  For an evening out with friends?  Absolutely not.

A game I love and play a lot is Dominion.  It has a large strategic depth as well, but also a lot of randomness, brought on by the shuffle of the cards.  I stopped playing Dominion at that 99% level ages ago, because the luck of the draw had a much larger effect on my wins and losses than that 10% improvement.  And because of that I can play Dominion back to back for hours, winning and losing and having a great time the whole way through.

I need to be able to play like that with every game.  And maybe, hopefully, spelling it out like this will help; the first step is admitting you have a problem, after all.

As it is, if I don’t play Princes again for another six months or so, I’m fine.  I’ve had enough of its knife’s edge for now… at least until I figure out how to blunt that blade.

Weekly status update [0017/????]

I had a couple of conversations yesterday evening about my blog; I was at a social going-away party thing that had a lot of people I hadn’t really talked to since before I retired.  And it made me realize that in some ways, yeah, this blog is exactly the sort of obligation I’m trying not to have this year.  I’m not gonna lie.  Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something even semi-interesting to write about, and I feel that as a sort of weight around my shoulders.  But I also realized that a little obligation, a little “hey, you need to do this at least a couple of times a week” is actually a good thing.  Never mind the practical, useful side of it, the fact that writing here is good de-rusting for whatever future tippy-tappy endeavors I embark on.  A tiny bit of discomfort that results in something that others seem to enjoy?  That’s the best kind of obligation.

  • I don’t think I even cracked a puzzle book once this week.  That might be a first since retirement.
  • It’s because almost all of my time has been spent reading.  After finishing off King’s The Outsider, I immediately put his “crime trilogy” on hold at the local library.  It was a long weekend, so I couldn’t get them until Tuesday, but snag them I did.  I’ve already finished the first two and plan on spending the rest of today reading the third.
  • I got them in large print, too.  It’s nice.  I had already jacked the font size way up on my Kindle back when I read the first Wheel of Time book, and having something much like that in a physical volume is handy.  Unfortunately not a lot of my favorite genre (science fiction) gets large-print editions, so I’ll have to enjoy this luxury while I can.
  • I didn’t really watch TV either.  I did play some video games, but it’s mostly the usual free-to-play suspects.
  • Keto’s going well.  I still haven’t weighed myself, but I had the most important signifier Friday morning: the shorts I had been wearing off and on the last few weeks were loose enough I had to hitch them up repeatedly at Walmart.  Woo!
  • I saw Deadpool 2 with some good friends from work last Saturday.  It was… exactly what I wanted out of Deadpool 2.  If you saw the first, and thought of it as “a comic book movie cranked to 11,” then Deadpool 2 was the same thing cranked to 13 or 14.
  • No further movement on the “getting rid of boardgames” front to report.
  • Dove deep into reading about modern abstract boardgames again, which happens every six months or so.  The result this time was some code changes to Giles to make one particular game more flexible.  The desire to implement a whole new game or two has mostly passed, unfortunately, but even this little bit of programming felt good.
  • Still no actual prose on a page, although stuff is aggressively percolating.  Soon.  Soon.

Soon.  (Man.  That doesn’t even look like a word to me now.)

Letting loose the cardboard dogs

I’m currently in conversations with a large Internet board game resale site about giving up the vast majority of my board game collection.

Those of you who know me know that I have an enormous set of games.  Somewhere north of 2000, if my logging on BoardGameGeek is to be believed.  And while there are games in there that I would be loath to give up–my copy of Princes of Florence has genuine sentimental value, for instance–they are few and far between.

I’ve gone back and forth on this a lot over the last year or two, but the facts are:

  • my house overfloweth,
  • my time at the table has dropped dramatically since retiring, and never really supported the meatier games in my collection, and
  • moving this collection to wherever I end up going after North Carolina would be… tricky doesn’t even begin to cover it.

The idea of paring that enormous collection down to less than a hundred or so “essentials” really appeals to me.  I love my board game collection, don’t get me wrong, but in the end it’s just stuff, and worse, stuff that isn’t getting used.

I have no idea if this particular stab at reducing my collection will succeed; it requires driving halfway across the country with a truck filled with board games, not to mention getting a good enough price for said games to make the trip worthwhile.  There’s an eBay consignment shop in town that I need to talk to as well, but anywhere like that is likely to have a problem with the volume… not to mention the fact that some of the games just wouldn’t sell.  If I’m shedding my collection, I want to shed it pretty much stem to stern.

Fortunately, I’m not in a rush.  I can look at different options and see what will work out best.  And, hey: if everything else fails, there’s always bonfires.

Weekly status update [0016/????]

An even quieter week than usual, which is saying something.

  • My wrists are behaving better than they have in months.  I got new braces to wear overnight, as the old ones were literally falling apart, and I haven’t been wearing them during the day at all for the last several days.  So far so good.
  • Jessica Jones‘ second season has so far failed to grab me the way the first did, which is disappointing.  I’m still going to finish it up, but after the amazing Kilgrave arc, this is something of a letdown.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth continue to be excellent viewing material, thankfully.
  • I got to play Transatlantic at an extended game night this past Tuesday.  It was a very solid game, if not quite up to Concordia‘s level of brilliance, and I found myself thinking about it again repeatedly over the last several days.  I want to write a post about Mac Gerdts’ designs and why I find them so compelling, but I haven’t been able to arrange my thoughts in a way that I like enough to post.
  • I still haven’t started on Rewind rewrites, but I got some excellent feedback on the zeroth draft from a friend that pushed me ever closer to getting started on them.  It’s going to take a lot of work; the story needs to be roughly twice as long, at a minimum, and there’s a lot of guff that needs to be removed and plot threads that need to be woven more tightly.  I will probably have to break down and actually do some outlining to make sure it all fits together the way I want, something I’ve avoided… well, forever, actually.  Sigh.  But it’s for the good of the story, I know.
  • I finished reading Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, which was fine, if slight.  Mostly it made me wish I was rereading his Pretties series, or Leviathan (which, no joke, I got through two of the three books to finally realize that I had already read the damn series… but I was too into it to put it aside, and finished out the re-read.)  I managed to be the first person in line at the local library for the new Stephen King novel, so I look forward to reading that next; my understanding is that it’s something of a return to form for him.  I’ll report back.

The new CHVRCHES album came out today; I’ve already spun it a few times and quite enjoyed it.  Don’t be surprised if you see a review of… well, probably not it, but perhaps one or both of their earlier albums soon.

Anyhow: quiet.  Not boring, of course–you know that by now!–but not busy.  And that’s fine.

Weekly status update [0013/????]

Getting back into the groove of being home.  I honestly miss being around other people… but I also really like being by myself.  The eternal conflict.

  • After months of very laissez-faire eating habits, I’m back on keto.  I’m actually in the middle of a mini-fast; I had been eating many thousands of kilocalories more than I should have per day, and fasting is the… er… fastest way I know to get my body back to a more regular level of craving.  It’s miserable, of course, but it’s also almost over.  I plan on shifting to a regular ketogenic diet come Monday.
  • Did quite a few puzzles, mostly Sudoku; I’m at that point in one of my puzzle books where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which means I tend to focus on it rather than the fifteen others sitting next to my chair.  I think I’m going to intentionally not replace that particular book for a bit, so as to give some of the other puzzle types a bigger part of the rotation.
  • Still watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine (hilarious) and The Punisher (tolerable).
  • I actually wrote some small patches for Giles this week.  For a brief, shining moment I thought I might be diving back into coding.  Then I remembered that no one cares about Giles other than me and I have nothing to prove in re: my coding ability, so… not so much.
  • Still grinding out dailies in the same four games, although I actually put some real time into Let It Die.  I think I’m actually going to try and make some real forward progress this weekend or, at the latest, next week.
  • We had an “extended game night” this Tuesday; it was supposed to be at Fercott Fermentables, but they were closed.  One of the players stepped in at the last minute to host.  Thanks, Derrick!  It was an excellent game of Antike II, and one I’m still thinking about now.
  • I ordered board games for the first time this year while still riding high on the high from that game night.  As always, I bought way more than I should have.  Sigh.
  • Not a lot of reading, alas.  The Eye of the World is fine, but it’s not exciting me… and I feel obligated to finish at least that first book in the Wheel of Time series before moving onto something else.

All in all, pretty much the same stuff that I was doing before the trip, plus the whole diet thing.  If you find any of this surprising… you haven’t been paying attention.

Weekly status update [0012/????]

It was a very split week, with Saturday and Sunday in Arkansas, Monday a grueling haul across a third of the continental United States, and most of the rest of the week recovering from said haul back in the comfort of my home.  That said, there’s some things worth bulletizing, so let’s do that.

  • The writeup on all the major writing I’ve done hasn’t had any responses, which is sad, but it refreshed my knowledge on all of that stuff, which was nice.  Still a lot of garbage, though.
  • I’ve watched a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine this week.  Too much, to be honest; I binged it for a couple of days, a thing I’m trying not to do any more with TV.  But the show has a lot of episodes, and they’re so popcorn-y, that it’s hard to resist.  I’ve slowed down my consumption rate to just a couple a day now.
  • I finally caught back up on GameNight!, unquestionably my favorite YouTube show about board games.  I’m actually bringing CrossTalk to a thing tomorrow, along with a deck of 11 nimmt! cards we can use to play The Mind, which looks absurd and amazing.
  • I haven’t talked about Colemak in a while.  I’m still using it exclusively, except for once a week or so when a password gets dangerously close to failing out due to my typos.  I haven’t cracked much more than 65wpm, but I also haven’t been pushing myself to type faster, either, thanks to the whole Wrist Situation.  I should work on it more, though.
  • Speaking of which, my wrists are much better behaved than they have been in ages.  I actually spent most of today without them on, even typing some, with no discomfort.  I wear the braces a lot now, and I think they’ve helped a ton.  I may be able to roll back down to just wearing them to sleep.
  • Did lots of puzzles, mostly sudoku, as I’m getting near the end of another book I’ve been working on for years.
  • Not a lot of reading, though.  I haven’t picked my Kindle back up since the end of the trip.  I need to keep on with The Wheel of Time before it all slips out of my head.  The size of that series is intimidating as hell, though.

The long trip was the perfect combination of “great to go, great to come back,” and I suspect I won’t be doing any serious travel again until the holidays, although you never know.  Nice thing about retirement: if I decide to head off and drive around for a week or two, I can do that.  Nice.

The pleasures of simplicity

I’m back in North Carolina, and glad to be back.  My reaction actually surprised me; I opened the door to my house with a bit of trepidation, but it smelled like–felt like–home from the moment I stepped inside.  I’m still not fully unpacked from the trip, but I made a start of it last night, and already did the necessary errands around town this morning to get my mail, buy another clipboard after I left mine at Mom’s, and so on.

That said, it was a wonderful trip.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this trip was pretty much designed-slash-planned to be neither designed nor planned.  Back in Baton Rouge, I saw people who put forth the effort to contact me after an initial “hey, I’m in town” blast to old friends and coworkers, and didn’t worry about the rest.  There were lots of days spent lazing around my mom’s house, solving puzzles or watching Broadchurch, and I ate out probably half as much as I typically do when I visit.

There were a lot more lunches and dinners at restaurants in Fayetteville, but the visit was still pretty low-key.  Dan and I spent a lot of time playing couch co-op Diablo III, which is just about as non-committal as you can make a videogame.  Any less thought involved (at the low levels, at least) and you may as well be “playing” Cookie Clicker.  The only really planned outing was to Crystal Bridges, and the plan for that changed several times throughout the week as other things came up.  In previous times that would have stressed me out.  But, no, we went on Sunday and it was really nice.  I could have stayed for hours and hours more; I love museums.  But it gives me something else to look forward to on the next trip to Arkansas.

All along the way, my general response to any planned outing, get-together, or choice of meal was “sure, why not.”  Back in Louisiana, the few evenings with Stuff Happening were strictly first-come, first-serve, rather than my previous attempts to satisfy as many people as possible, even if it meant shuffling a lot of things around.

And the lesson?  That old way is for chumps.  Cutting scheduling down to the barest minimum doesn’t just make things less stressful, it makes them more fun, because there’s room for spontaneity when before there was too much “oh, no, I’m meeting whoever at whenever, I can’t do that”.  Keeping it simple also kept it pleasant, and when your trip has God-awful drives all around it, you can do with as much pleasantness as possible.

(Also, no matter how much I kvetch about the drive, it’s still better than flying.  You lose a day either way, but most airlines don’t have the ability to satisfy a craving for a Blizzard, or a desire to just get out and not be moving for a few minutes, at 30,000 feet.)

So my future plan, even for the Big Holiday Visit, is to keep it low on planning and high on “yeah, sure”.  I’ll try and make sure the one big game night happens, but that’s about it, and if even that falls through I won’t be too sad.  Heck, I played Concordia four times while I was in Baton Rouge, which is roughly infinity percent more than I expected, and half of those games were spontaneous ones with the neighbors.  Who knows what other fun I’ll discover later this year?

Weekly status update [0011/????]

The majority of this week has been spent with an old coworker and his family in Fayetteville, AR, just hanging out.  It’s the last leg of my vacation before I head back to Lenoir.  As such, here’s a quick list of some stuff I’ve done:

  • Ate a bunch of tasty food.  Fayetteville has totally respectable Thai and Vietnamese, an excellent grilled cheese shop, and not one but two good frozen custard/concrete shops.  Yum.
  • Played a lot of Diablo III with said coworker via couch co-op on the PS4.  It’s good, mindless fun.
  • …not a whole lot of anything else.  A bit of puzzling, a bit of reading, even a game of Concordia, but for the most part it’s been a nice, quiet, low-key visit.  Which I’ve very much enjoyed.

As mentioned before, I plan on being back in Lenoir early next week, and hope to resume a more regular posting schedule then.  See you soon!

(P.S.  Still not bored.)

Weekly status update [0009/????]

A quick one this week, being not at home and all.

  • Watched several movies with Mom, a few that I had seen already (Get OutHidden Figures) and a few I hadn’t (John Wick 2: The Legend of Curly’s GoldLincoln).
  • Finished up Matter, which came close to crashing my Kindle thanks to the weird table at the end.  (Great book, though.)  Next up is Surface Detail.
  • Lots of puzzles.  I even got my mother an introductory book for sudoku, which came in today, and I plan on showing her how it works this afternoon.
  • Several meals with family at yummy local restaurants, because if you’re in south Louisiana and you’re not eating out on the regs, you’re doing it wrong.  Also, y’know, family.
  • I brought Concordia with me from North Carolina and managed to get a game of it in on Monday.  I hope to make it happen at least one more time before I leave.
  • Not a lot of videogaming, although I’ve managed a bit more Let It Die than usual.
  • Being allergy free is awesome.  And the weather’s great too.  But it’s a short-lived period here in Louisiana, this spring, and I got lucky with my timing.