Weekly status update [0042/????]

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!

Weekly status update [0037/????]

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.

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 [0021/????]

It was a relatively uneventful week, other than a pair of delicious meals that effectively bookended the working chunk.  I was confused enough on Monday to think it was Saturday, though, so it goes to show you that days of the week start becoming a bit nebulous once they don’t actually affect your life very much.  Or I’m just very forgetful.

Or both.  Why not both?

  • The first meal, on Tuesday, was a going-away dinner for one of my old coworkers.  I was pleasantly surprised to be invited, and had a good time chatting with all of my old teammates.  The steak wasn’t bad either.  (It was delicious.)
  • The second meal, on Friday, was at the local Tex Mex place I frequent.  I got a platter full of meat with caramelized onions, avocado, and all the taste.  It was also delicious.
  • In the middle, along with last weekend?  So much Planetside 2.  So much.  According to this page, I started playing this past Sunday or Monday (the graph is a bit unclear) and have already put 61 hours into the game.  That’s… a lot of game.  It also doesn’t count the several hours I’ve spent on alternate characters.  I wrote about it here.  Yesterday I could feel the game starting to get a bit stale… but then I convinced one of my old coworkers to play Friday evening, and we both had a great time together, and that renewed my excitement.  We’ll see how long it lasts.
  • Alongside the videogames (well, mostly the one), I finished reading John Kessel’s The Moon and the Other.  I should write a “Here’s a Book Thing” about it, and I may, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed it quite a bit.  What on the surface looks in some ways like a reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t, really.  Also, those two books one after the other was a bit of a weird coincidence, given their exploration of gender roles… but I picked up the Kessel almost entirely based on the cover.
  • I suspect my back is just going to hurt me a bit every morning from here on out, but at least it’s not the acute pain I was experiencing the last few weeks any more.  Small blessings and all that.

Lastly, this is not really something specific that happened, but: every time I left the house, I realized how little I leave the house now.  I am definitely not an errand-a-day sort of guy; if anything, I bundle them up and do them all at once, then stay home for two or three days before venturing out again.  This was helped by the fact that I didn’t get a rotisserie chicken from Walmart even once this week, which usually puts me on the road for a couple of minutes every morning.  It seems a little strange, as someone who spent at least some time in the car every weekday since I was sixteen or so.  It’s a small but significant change to the rhythm of my life.

Here’s a food thing: Great Value drink enhancers, considered opinion edition

After spending several weeks using them heavily, I think it’s time that I write up my final thoughts on the Great Value drink enhancers previously discussed here.  Some moved up, some moved down, and I figured out a neat trick.

Neat trick first: for pretty much any of the “fruity” flavors, you can add a bit of the Black Cherry to it.  It acts as an en-tartening agent (that’s not a word, but whatever) without messing with the flavor profile too much.  It works particularly well with several of the flavors, which I’ll mention below.

Also, a note: the bottles say “24 servings”, but I get a whopping 10 out of them, so apparently my potency is 2.4x what Walmart suggests.  Given that I use the enhancers as a replacement for both soft drinks and candy, that’s not too surprising, but your personal tastes may vary based on just how much you squeeze into the glass.

D Tier

Lemonade: This ended up being the only flavor I actually dumped (well, squeezed) out into the sink after three or four glasses.  Country Time lemonade powder just isn’t my thing, and it’s no better in liquid form.  It didn’t even last long enough to make it to the Black Cherry mix-in, but I can’t imagine that would have improved it much.

C Tier

Cherry Limeade (has caffeine): How the mighty hath fallen.  This was the flavor that encouraged me to try this whole thing, and to be honest I was surprised by how good it was with my very first glass.  The problem: it’s not as good as the rest.  Perfectly drinkable, sure, but also noticeably artificial, too strong on the cherry and not strong enough on the lime.  I found myself very weak on it by the end.  Disappointing, but other surprise flavors have picked up the slack, so it all works out in the end.

Black Cherry (has caffeine): This is a flavor they didn’t have the first time I picked up the drink enhancers.  I bought it hoping for something better than Cherry Limeade.  It is, but Black Cherry is still not amazing.  That is, it’s not amazing by itself.  Added to several of the other flavors, it significantly enhances them, at least for a tartness junkie like me.

Orange Blast: New as well.  I avoided this one the first time because I’m generally not a fan of artificial orange, but it turns out that this is essentially liquid Tang, and I actually kinda like the flavor of Tang for some reason.  I don’t love it, but it’s perfectly fine.  It’s not special, though, hence the lowish ranking.  A pleasant surprise nevertheless.

B Tier

Pineapple Mango: Another new flavor.  I wavered on where to put this, either C Tier or here, because I have a problem with it: it tastes very mango-y, and I’m not a huge fan of mangoes.  I love pineapples, though, and I can’t deny that this particular flavor tastes exactly like fresh pineapple and mango juice.  It’s a bit freakish, to be honest.  Despite my lack of love of mango, though, I enjoyed every glass of this that I had, which bumped it up to B Tier.

Blue Raspberry: The third and final new flavor.  I actually bought this one last; I kept ignoring it, because I consider “blue raspberry” a stupid stunt flavor.  That turned out to be silly, because it’s actually quite good.  Not mind-blowing, but a perfectly pleasant raspberry flavor.  It’s definitely a bit better with Black Cherry added… and also turns a particular shade of purplish blue that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid.  I freely admit that might bias me.

Strawberry Watermelon: This one moved up the ranks.  It still tastes like a Jolly Rancher, but the flavor’s better than I realized that first glass.  Don’t bother putting the Black Cherry into it, though; that just makes it taste exactly like Fruit Punch.  I mean, I guess you could, rather than buying Fruit Punch separately, but… why?

A Tier

Strawberry Kiwi: Nothing changed about this flavor, really; it’s still exactly like Crystal Light’s version (or Jell-O, if you have fonder memories of wiggly food than ’90s diet beverages).  I just realized I actually really like the taste of strawberry kiwi.  A hit of Black Cherry in it improves it even further.

Berry Blast (has caffeine): Still a tasty blueberry/strawberry mix, still very good, still an unfortunate color.  (I love purple!  I just don’t like drinking it.)  Black Cherry boosts this as well, and I’m honestly not sure I’d drink it without a squeeze of Black Cherry now because of how much the tartness enhances it.

Fruit Punch: I realize it might be weird to give Lemonade such a low ranking and this flavor such a high one when they’re both replicating specific, very artificial flavors.  Whatever: I loved Fruit Punch Kool-Aid, and I love this.  Its only flaw is that it isn’t tart, but hey!  That’s what Black Cherry is for.  With a bit of that, I’d put Fruit Punch at low S Tier.  As is, it’s still delicious.

S Tier

Raspberry Lemonade: Still the (utterly shocking, to someone who’s not crazy about raspberry) champion.  It’s not just me, by the way; everyone I’ve had try it loves it.  I dunno what it is about this flavor, but it’s got all the magic necessary to go the distance: tart and fruity in a perfect balance.  It’s possibly the only one that is actually made worse with Black Cherry, as that increases its tartness to an almost unpleasant level.  No, Raspberry Lemonade is perfect where it is.

So, there you have it: an extensive review nobody wanted.  I’ll note that I’m still not brave enough to try the Grape, and I don’t like tea, so the various sweet tea variations are very much Not My Thing.  If you’ve tried any of those flavors, feel free to leave a comment as to what you thought.  I’d be curious to know!

You might ask: which ones do you plan on keeping around?  Well, I bought three more bottles of Raspberry Lemonade today, and I have an unopened Fruit Punch.  I think I’ll pick up a Berry Blast, Strawberry Kiwi, and maybe even Pineapple Mango the next time at Walmart… plus more Black Cherry for mixing.  In the end, I’ll probably cycle through all the lower-tier flavors that I enjoy… with a whole lot of Raspberry Lemonade betwixt it all.  So good.  So, so good.

Waking up, falling out of bed

Over the past weeks and months, various people have asked me with curiosity, incredulity, even suspicion: what do you do all day?

First, it’s important to know that I’m a creature of habit.  I enjoy it when things are much the same today as they were yesterday, and am looking forward to a tomorrow that looks a lot like now.  For many people that would be simply the worst, and I respect that even as I respectfully disagree.

Second, I don’t blame you if you fall asleep halfway through this post.  My life is simple, rote, Spartan in habit if not in clutter.  Expect no big revelations.

Times are approximations, standard rules and regulations apply, no purchase necessary.

0745-0900ish: Wake up.  Sometimes it’s as early as 0600, sometimes it’s as late as 1000, but 0800-0815 is by far the most common window for me awakening.  It doesn’t seem to correlate terribly well with when I go to bed, either; a lack of sleep here usually (but not always) portends a nap later in the day.

I break my fast with a pair of Atkins shakes and a multivitamin.

0830ish: Morning dailies.  Two of the free-to-play games I engaged with, Gems of War and Let It Die, have their 24-hour cycles pop while I’m generally asleep, so I spend time in the morning logging into them and doing the minimum daily requirements.  Occasionally I’ll actually play one for a while in the morning, particularly Let It Die, for an hour or so, but that’s actually relatively uncommon.

0900ish: Morning bookmarks.  I have a set of websites I check religiously every morning.

  • The CRPG Addict (new content several times a week): Chester Bolingbroke (likely not his real name) is playing through a bunch of old computer RPGs and writing them up.  The writing is engaging and he’s willing to put up with even more willfully (unintentionally?) terrible design than I am, so it’s enjoyable to read and has regular doses of schadenfreude.
  • The Digital Antiquarian (new content a couple of times a week): Jimmy Maher (actually his real name) is an excellent writer, and he’s been covering early computer and gaming history for a long time.  I actually came across one of his books, The Future Was Here–part of my long-time favorite Platform Studies series–well before I found his blog.  Articles tend to be long and meticulously researched; my archive binge nine months or so ago took weeks, and I’m a fast reader.  Right now he’s writing about Sid Meier’s Civilization, which also means he’s been diving into the details of Communism and the role religion has played in the development of society and other such topics that obviously come from analyzing an old computer game.  Always a fascinating read.
  • Dinosaur Comics (new content several times a week): My favorite comic for a decade plus.  Don’t let its use of the exact same panels for every single strip fool you; it’s regularly smart, clever, and funny as hell.  My avatar just about everywhere is a very light edit of T-Rex’s head from this strip.
  • Dumbing of Age (new content every day, weekends included): I never read the previous “Walkyverse” comics, and it turns out that there’s no need to; Dumbing of Age stands alone as a paean to college, adolescent naïvete, and deep questions about identity.  It’s funny and really serious, oftentimes both in the same strip.  (It’s also extremely continuity-heavy; prepare for some binge reading of the archives if you pick it up.)
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (new content several times a week): It started out as a darker, edgier The Far Side, and while those strips still happen regularly, it’s more often a nerdy  look at questions of identity, sexuality, and the future.  But, you know, funny.
  • Electoral Vote (new content daily): Run by Andrew Tenenbaum of MINIX fame, this site used to only update in the run-up to presidential elections.  In the utterly insane world we live in today, Tenenbaum decided to stick to a daily update schedule “until things calm down”.  (Spoiler alert: they haven’t.)  It provides precisely the right amount of political news and analysis I can generally handle on a daily basis, presented in a trenchant tone that makes it way more readable than most news sites.  It also provides links to all of its sources, which is way more than most political sites do.
  • A couple of Tumblrs and Twitter feeds for fannish crap that aren’t worth sharing.

1000ish: Time to head to Walmart and pick up a rotisserie chicken.  They’re $4.98 plus tax, which is way, way cheaper than I could do on my own.  Plus I’m lazy.

1030ish: Time to eat said rotisserie chicken.  This is earlier than I like eating, but they start putting the chickens out right after 0900, so they start to get a bit soggy if you don’t get there early, and they definitely don’t improve by sitting on the countertop.

1100ish: Comedy TV time.  I allow myself to watch only one episode each of the various shows I’m consuming, and noontime is when I watch the funny stuff.  Right now that’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth.

1200-1900ish: The first big open window of the day.  I’ve been reading a lot lately, so that happens here; this is also when I usually loop back around to Let It Die and actually put some time into it.  If I’m in the middle of a normal, non-free-to-play game (right now it’s the original Phantasy Star for the Sega Master System), progress happens here.

I also do puzzles.  I keep a pair of stacks of puzzle books next to my recliner; I tend to only do one of a type (a Sudoku, a Slitherlink, whatever) before switching off to another puzzle type, or grabbing a book, or snagging the controller.  I don’t remember being this unfocused in my solving before retirement; not sure what that’s about.

If I’m tired due to staying up too late, not getting enough sleep, or just, y’know, feeling like it, I’ll take a short nap somewhere in here too.  It’s not usually for more than an hour or so, but sometimes it’s 2-3 hours.  That’s fine too.

Usually dinner’s just another pair of Atkins shakes somewhere in here.

1900ish: Drama TV time.  Anything serious I’m watching happens here.  Right now that’s just The Punisher, but it’s been up to three different shows at the same time.  If it’s a bit creepy, like Stranger Things, I’ll push it later to make sure it’s dark outside when I watch it.  Ambiance is important, y’ken?

2000ish: Evening dailies.  Warframe and Spelunker World have daily events that pop at night, so I do those.  I always do Spelunker World first, because Warframe often has some missions to do as well, and I like to finish off with them.

2100ish until: Evening variety time.  I watch Twitch, read, solve more puzzles, play more videogames, until I get tired and hit the bed.  Sometimes that’s as early as 2200, sometimes it’s as late as 0400.  I don’t really worry about the timing.  After all, I can always nap the next day.

As you can see, it’s super action-packed exciting times!  But I like the slow rhythm of my days quite a bit.

Now, it’s 1120, which means it’s time for some Brooklyn Nine-Nine.  If you’ll excuse me…

Here’s a food thing: Great Value drink enhancers, hot take edition

[Welcome to Here’s a thing, my take on reviews.  Yes, the Solving post from last week should have been one of these.  Anyhow, inspired by Movies with Mikey, I’m not going to bother with negative reviews.  Instead, these posts will showcase things I like.  No promises as to frequency, mind you; I don’t want this to become a review blog.  But I do plan on reviewing things on the semi-regular.

Also, you should watch Movies with Mikey.  It’s one of my top five channels on YouTube.

Monday update: These rankings will have to be updated once I finish off the bottles; several have shifted after a day’s tasting.  The title of this post has been updated accordingly.]

I’m back on a ketogenic diet, and in fact currently fasting.  Part of the problem with keto, particularly for someone like me who lives alone and doesn’t get a ton of pleasure out of cooking for one, is maintaining variety in what I consume.  I’ve been drinking a lot of diet soda recently–way, way too much diet soda, to be honest–and last night I remembered Mio.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Mio is a “water enhancer.”  It’s a little squeeze bottle filled with a sugar-free hyper-concentrated liquid that you squirt into a glass of water or water bottle.  It’s Crystal Light in a much more convenient form, really, and its only real downside is that at the flavor concentration I prefer it ends up being almost exactly as expensive as actual 12-packs of Coke Zero Sugar.

But it’s better for you, for sure, and way better for your teeth, so I was all prepared to place an order for a ton of different flavors on Amazon this morning when a pair of lines in one of the reviews stopped me: “Get walmart brand for about 30% less. Tastes the same.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my general experience with Walmart’s Great Value brand is that it’s hot garbage.  Their sodas are terrible, their knockoff of La Croix is even more undrinkable than the original (an impressive feat), their cookies taste like cardboard, and so on.  I’d say that my success rate with the brand is in the low single digits.

On the other hand, it’s cheap, and I wanted to get out of the house today anyway.  So I cruised on over to the Super Walmart in Lenoir and picked up seven different flavors for a whopping total of $14.14 and brought them home.  Imagine my surprise when, pouring myself an ice-cold glass of water from my Brita pitcher in the fridge and squeezing the first flavor in–Cherry Limeade, the best-reviewed of the bunch–I discovered that, huh, this is actually really good!

I’ve actually made myself a glass of all seven flavors I bought today already.  What can I say?  I’m a thirsty boy, and an inquisitive one.  Below are my hot-take rankings of the seven flavors, from best to worst, broken up into tiers a la characters in fighting games… because why not.

C Tier

Lemonade: It tastes exactly like Country Time lemonade powder, which doesn’t taste anything like real lemonade.  I imagine if you have fond memories of said beverage this would end up higher on your list; I don’t, really.  It’s not disgusting, it’s just not what I want lemonade to taste like.

Strawberry Watermelon: This flavor is completely inoffensive, but it tastes like a watered-down watermelon Jolly Rancher, which is already one of the least strongly-flavored sugar delivery systems I know.  Wherever the strawberry tones were hiding, I couldn’t find them.  I still like it more than actual watermelon, though, so there’s that.

B Tier

Strawberry Kiwi (has caffeine): Tastes identical to Crystal Light’s flavor of the same name.  I used to love the crud out of said drink, so that speaks highly of the other flavors we’re about to discuss.  You definitely get both the strawberry and the kiwi.  Had this been the best flavor that Walmart brought to the table, I would have been mildly disappointed but also a bit surprised, given my general opinion of their house brand.  But it doesn’t even make the top half.

A Tier

Berry Blast (has caffeine): I took a sip of this and went, hmm, blueberries and strawberries.  Then I looked at the picture on the label: blueberries and strawberries.  Nailed it, me!  The only real problem with this one is that it’s purple; I can’t stand artificial grape flavor thanks to taking Dimetapp when I was a kid, a cold medicine that transcends grapeness to taste purple.  So I have an uncomfortable mental association with any beverage that looks like it might be even slightly Dimetapp-adjacent.  Fortunately Berry Blast transcends its color.  Totally yum.

Cherry Limeade (has caffeine): Turns out people were both right and wrong.  This flavor is quite delicious!  But it’s not the best.  The cherry overwhelms the lime a bit, and as a major lime partisan I really wish the citrus tones were stronger.  It also has a bit of a weird smell, although it tastes just fine.  A slight tweak to the formula and I think it’d be at the top of the list, but even so I’m more than happy to drink it.

Fruit Punch: I may not have fond memories of Country Time lemonade powder, but I do have fond memories of fruit punch Kool-Aid.  This tastes exactly like that; maybe a little weaker unless you really squeeze the bottle, but that’s actually a good thing.  Of course, if this particular totally artificial flavor isn’t your thing, this one’s going to drop down to C Tier.  I love it, though.

S Tier

Raspberry Lemonade: Here’s the thing.  I don’t even really like raspberries.  I almost didn’t buy this flavor because of how “meh” I am on them.  That would have been a damn travesty, though, because holy moly this is delicious.  Unlike the Cherry Limeade, the lemon and raspberry components are perfectly balanced, and every sip is crisp and refreshing.  I would have never ever guessed before all of my tasting that this flavor was going to be the winner… but it was so good that I had to tell my mother that she needed to go pick up some from her local Walmart pronto, since she loves raspberry.

Overall, I was really impressed.  Even my least-favorite flavor, Lemonade, is totally drinkable, and the top three or four are worth keeping on hand at all times.  I suspect I’ll be going through the Raspberry Lemonade like it’s going out of style.

For those of you who don’t drink a lot of water, or just want to try something a little different, hopefully this review will give you something out to try.  (They’re in the “drink mixes” section, along with Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, and friends.)  I’m curious as to your thoughts, in particular if you try these out yourself.  Which flavors do you love?  Hate?  There were others at the store, but most were flavors that didn’t interest me at all; I’m not a sweet tea drinker, for example, and I find artificial orange to often be very cloying.  Let me know if you give them a whirl!

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 [0010/????]

As the number above creeps into the double digits, I’m still in Louisiana, planning to head to Arkansas this coming Tuesday.  I’m very much still taking it easy, so enjoy this (relatively) shorter synopsis.

  • Binged the first two series of Broadchurch with my mom; we’re about halfway through the third.  The first was still the best, but it’s an excellent show.
  • Finished my reread of the Culture series and decided, against my better judgment, to start reading the Wheel of Time; I have a combined eBook of all of the books in the series from when it was up for the Hugo.  My Kindle hasn’t moved from 1% on the progress bar.  It’s intimidating.
  • Took a couple of hours to reread two of my own novels, both science fiction.  They both had some clever bits, and the writing itself was actually quite a bit better than I remembered, but they’re also both woefully incomplete.
  • Ate at a local Vietnamese restaurant not once but twice.  It was the first time my mother had ever had such cuisine, and I think she’s hooked.  If you’re ever in Baton Rouge, check out Dang’s.  Their spring rolls and pho are both amazing.
  • Taught my older cousin how to solve both sudoku (at her insistence) and fill-ins (because I could).  She seemed to really like the latter.  It felt good.
  • The usual free-to-play videogame grind.
  • Managed to play card and board games with the neighbors; I’ve already played Concordia four times on this trip, which is more than any given previous six-month period in my life.  It’s so good.

Now to get some sleep.  The weather’s been amazing the entire time I’ve been here, cool and not too humid, but tomorrow’s going to be a total mess with thunderstorms.  I knew it had to happen before I left.  I’m glad it waited so long.