Weekly status update [0052/????]

Fifty-two weeks. Not gonna lie: I’m more than a little surprised at myself that I’ve managed to stick to writing this for one day short of a year. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with sticking to long term projects, but somehow this one’s survived so far. I’ve toyed with shutting this down in the next week or so, given that the low readership makes it feel a little too self-aggrandizing to write this stuff… but I think I’m going to continue for the time being.

Anyway, I’m writing this one a bit earlier than usual because I want to write up a full-year retrospective this weekend. Fortunately, it’s been a quiet week, so there’s not a ton to say.

  • I’m most of the way through the third season of The Man in the High Castle. The first two were passable but not great, and I mostly watched thanks to my love of alternate history; this third season, though, has been jam-packed with Big Stuff Happening, and I’m genuinely excited to see where it’s going.
  • I finished up Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on the PS4, netting a Platinum trophy I was forever denied back on the PS3 due to stupid online requirements. It had a whole bunch of terrible design bits that continued to prove my previous take on achievements is correct. I booted up the third Ezio game, Revelations, and after about fifteen minutes went “nope” and deleted it off of my PS4. I’ll probably come back to it in six months or a year or so, but right now I’m super burnt out on that particular flavor of game.
  • A dreadful discovery: Walmart now carries cookie butter, both store-brand and Biscoff. This is really unfortunate for my future diet.
  • Totally unrelated (I hope), I spent most of Wednesday with a combination of a bad stomach-ache and back trouble, which meant I spent basically the entire day in and out of the bed, failing to get any quality sleep. I finally managed to wake up with some verve… a few minutes past midnight. Ugh. Sometimes the wacky sleep schedule I have thanks to being retired is nice, and sometimes it’s kinda awful. This was definitely one of the latter times.
  • I have several books checked out of the library and have been busy ignoring them, instead reading Chokes McGee’s Let’s Plays of Final Fantasy Legend and its sequel. It’s the sort of things that probably mean nothing if you didn’t play games in the late ’80s or early ’90s, but the LPs were impressively well-written, funny and poignant throughout. I have no regrets having spent hours on them.

Fifty-two weeks. Crazy, man. Crazy.

Weekly status update [0048/????]

And thus ends my last full week back in Louisiana. Barring catastrophe, I’ll be back in Lenoir next Friday… and already missing the delicious food I’ll be leaving behind.

And friends and family too, of course. Mustn’t forget them.

  • The rate of boardgame play slowed down dramatically this past week, but I’ve still managed to fit in some more games of Dominion and even a round of Antike II. Tomorrow’s the yearly game night where we play bourré until the wee hours of the morning, a high point of every holiday trip back home.
  • The massive amounts of TV consumption, on the other hand, continued unabated. Watching the last season of The Americans was almost as good the second time around as it was the first; we then pivoted to two other shows which we’ve also finished. The first, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, was extraordinarily good. It’s an Amy Sherman-Palladino joint, and hoo boy is it basically everything I ever wanted in a TV show: non-stop Amy S-P comic hijinks, tons of gorgeous period detail, and copious use of the F word. Strong recommend. The other show is The Last Kingdom, one of the drops in the sea of under-advertised Netflix shows. I only learned about it thanks to a random Reddit thread, in fact. It’s basically a “real life” Game of Thrones-lite, set in the 9th Century in a pre-unification England. It’s good but not great, but the visuals are fantastic, the soundtrack is solid, and the action is engaging. Perfect holiday watching, in other words.
  • I’ve made a concerted effort on this trip to eat out less than I tend to when I’m back home, but I still have to hit up some of my favorite restaurants while I’m back in town. Honorable mention goes to the Central arm of Cafe Phoenicia, which has stepped up their game considerably over the last couple of years; it was good enough that I didn’t feel the need to go all the way across town for my usual Albasha fix. But the true winner of this past week was Fleur de Lis, my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the world. I was compelled to write a snarky 5-star review for the place on Google Maps, but can’t find a good way to link it here; I trust your ability to find it. Also, order your pizza “well done” there. Your belly will thank you.
  • Even though I’ve been sleeping late most days, I’ve also been fitting in a bunch of naps in the early afternoons. And: naps are amazing. We should all nap more.
  • Not so much on the videogame or puzzle front; it turns out that sitting at my mother’s table doing puzzles is a rapid recipe for major back pain for me now, which… sucks. And I’ve just got better things to do (or, at least, more social things) than play solo on my PS4 while I’m here. That said, what little I’ve done continues to be effectively joint: an old puzzle game or two on my DS, or Picross 3D Round 2 on my 3DS.
  • After nearly twenty years of having essentially the same webhosting solution, I’ve moved my sites (including this blog, of course). It’s with the same ISP, Pair Networks, but I’ve switched to their modern shared hosting solution, as the plan I was on hasn’t actually been offered for years. The net result is that I’m going to save ~$100 a year and am actually on newer hardware besides. Other than a short service interruption early Friday afternoon, the transition’s been smooth, and as always their customer support has been nothing but highly responsive to the minor issues I’ve had. I had never changed over before due to time-value of money arguments, but with retirement my time’s become quite a bit cheaper, and my worry about the longevity of the old platform was steadily increasing. All good now! If you see any issues with this blog, please let me know.

I’ll likely be heading out early morning Tuesday or Wednesday; one of the nice things about being retired and driving here is that I don’t really have to decide just yet. I’ll post a quick update when I make it home.

Resolving the future

I’m not a fan of New Years’ resolutions. I’ll be the first person to admit that I have trouble with follow-through when I’m not fully invested in a project–and sometimes even then–and all making resolutions seems to do is increase the guilt factor when something inevitably falls by the wayside.

That said, I do have things that I’d like to have happen in this coming calendar year. They’re not necessarily projects I’m going to start today, or when I get back from this trip, but instead stuff I want to work in in the medium term, want to be eyeing as possibilities when I’m looking for something to do.

Here’s a bulleted list of not-really-resolutions:

  • I went off the diet hard for the holidays, because that’s the only way to stay sane in Louisiana when you’re only there for a short time, but I’ll be getting back on the wagon when I make it back home. I’d like to be within shouting distance of my goal weight by the end of 2019, which should be totally feasible if I take it seriously.
  • I’ve done a bit of prose writing outside of NaNoWriMo in the last week or two, which is a genuine rarity. I’d like to continue doing so, with greater frequency, whether it’s short pieces I can post here or longer-form stuff.
  • Speaking of prose, I’d really like to start working on the rewrite of Rewind this year as well. It’s the closest thing I have to a real, “salable” story (whatever that means), and although it needs a lot of work to get it up to the sort of standard that I think it needs to meet to be shopped around, it still needs less of it than anything else I’ve ever written.
  • I’d also like to get back into recreational programming. I have DXV’s code sitting quietly over on Github, unnoticed and untouched, and I think if I could work up the enthusiasm to work on it the act of rewriting a game in another language would actually be a very interesting experience. There are other potential projects, too, of course, both open source and personal.
  • Whether I end up making a decision about moving somewhere else or not, I need to do something about my ridiculously large board game collection. Narrowing it to 100 or so “big box” games, plus a bin or two of smaller stuff, would do worlds of wonder for my sanity, never mind dramatically easing any future shipping around of the whole mess. I have at least one potential way to shed most, if not all, of the collection; I just need to take the time to do a massive, more-detailed inventory to make it happen. And, potentially, investigate alternatives if that falls through. (Anyone want to buy ~2000 board games, most still in shrink? Reasonably priced, I promise!)

It’d also be great if 2019 ended up as less of a total dumpster fire in terms of the world writ large, but on that front there’s not much more I can do other than exercising my vote and, possibly, taking up some sort of volunteering. That said, here’s to hoping all of our 2019s are better, resolutions or no.

Weekly status update [0047/????]

Sorry about the lack of a mid-week post. On the other hand: holidays.

  • Lots of time spent with family over the last week. My oldest sister and uncle stayed over at Mom’s for Christmas Eve, and we added my nephew and his SO for Christmas night, so it was a pleasantly packed house in the evenings. My younger-older sister and her spouse showed up for Christmas Day, and various other friends and extended family members drifted in and out of the house over the days. This is one of the nicest things about being “back home:” seeing everyone.
  • I’ve also played a metric ton of board games, mostly with the neighbors (and in particular their youngest son, who now works at the same place where I did as a student at LSU). He and I have played a bunch of two-player stuff, and we’ve played bigger games with more of his family. Some highlights are:
    • the new Dominion expansion (Renaissance), which I got for Christmas, and which feels like another Adventures/Empires level endeavor;
    • Evil High Priest, which came in right before I left to come home, and which is a solid take on worker placement with some take-that mechanics added in;
    • Spirit Island, a serious step up for my neighbors, but one that went over surprisingly well despite its length. (I’ve played it before, but am always happy to play it more frequently.)
  • I’ve also been watching TV with my mother, a long-standing tradition. We just finished the third season of Travelers last night, which left me really, really hoping they get renewed for a fourth season. We’re also watching the last season of The Americans together and are almost done with it as well. (If you read what I wrote before, you understand why I don’t mind watching it again.)
  • There’s been a bit of a puzzle/videogame combination thing going, in that what gaming I’ve done has been on my DS and 3DS; specifically, the Nikoli Nurikabe game on the former, where I only have ~15 puzzles (out of 300) before I’m finally done, and Picross 3D Round 2 on the latter, where I’m deep in the postgame. I’m on weirdly difficult puzzles in both, though, and have put them down for the last few days.
  • Food. So much food. A lot of it has been delicious junk food–I ordered a ton of stuff from the Tootsie company direct (link withheld so that I’m at least less responsible for your irresponsibility) and the usual Airheads and Gold-n-Chees)–but my mother is a fantastic cook and I’ve been taking heavy advantage of her culinary skills. I’ve actually only eaten out twice since I’ve been here, which has got to be a record low. There are too many tasty things to eat at the house to leave.
  • I’ve even done a bit of writing. It’s awful and private, but it’s writing nevertheless.

I’ll be hanging out mostly by myself for the next couple of days, while the family is off elsewhere, which is a surprisingly pleasant break in the middle of my visit. But I’m looking forward to them being back as well. All in all, it’s been a nice, if a bit hectic, visit, and one I look forward to continuing. There are lots more board games to play, after all.

Weekly status update [0046/????]

Nothing says “home for the holidays” like the fact that it’s going to be almost seventy degrees today. Louisiana, you do you.

  • Much of the early part of this week was spent in preparation for the trip back home. I’ve got a terrible memory for that sort of thing, so Google Keep did me a solid by letting me make a list and check it twice, helping ensure I didn’t leave anything important back in Lenoir.
  • Trip day was Wednesday. I woke up at 04:30, which the less said about the better, and hit the road a bit before 5am. To my delight, Bojangles’ was already open, so I snagged some delicious (chicken-fried) steak biscuits to get the day going. I also stopped at a couple of QTs along the way and had their spicy chicken taquitos. (I have a weakness for their roller grill.) It ended up being a 13-hour drive, putting me back in Baton Rouge at just after 5pm local time thanks to time zones. It was a long, exhausting trip, and it rained pretty bad for a short stretch near the Mississippi/Louisiana border, but was otherwise incident-free.
  • I slept for almost twelve hours, then woke up Thursday and immediately hit up Dang’s, the best local Vietnamese place. It was still as delicious as I remembered.
  • Both Wednesday and Thursday afternoon were spent watching some TV with my Mom; the third season of Travelers dropped on Netflix, and I decided that I was all right with rewatching the last season of The Americans with her (for obvious reasons).
  • I also managed to already fit some boardgames in with the neighbors on Thursday night. (One of the distinct advantages of driving: I came with a fat stack of games.) We played Antike II, which was surprisingly good for three players, along with Tumult and Lost Cities Rivals. They seemed to enjoy all three.
  • Friday was mostly spent as a family day, with my sisters, nephew, uncle, and assorted significant others. Good food, good laughs, although I did my back a disservice by sitting in a hard chair for most of it that put me in a not-great spot by the end of the night. Also, I ate like a pig.
  • I also squeezed a bit of puzzling in here and there, continuing to work both on 3D Picross Round 2 and Nikoli’s DS Nurikabe game that I’ve been playing off and on for many years, plus some paper puzzles at my mom’s expansive kitchen table.

I probably won’t be doing my usual mid-week post this coming week, other than maybe a quick blip, so: happy holidays to you and yours!

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.