Tiny bits, late June edition

My lower back’s been killing me since last Thursday, and I exacerbated it by sitting in front of my computer for several hours last night playing through most of the original Creeper World again.  I woke up this morning with a realization that I had better move very, very carefully today, or I will be laid up for days.

I’ve been on hold with the USPS for an hour now.  They destroyed a package sent from Germany and are supposedly sending me paperwork to file a claim for insurance… but it’s been two weeks and they haven’t yet.  Their website is horribly broken, too.  Putting in my claim number causes it to have a server error.  Confidence level of me actually getting my insurance claim: near zero.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a great book, but I can only read it a chapter or so at a time.  What was meant to read as a dark parable at the time of publication comes off much more dire in today’s political clime.  I haven’t even touched the second season of the show on Hulu, partly because I want it to finish airing, partly because I’m not sure I can handle it right now.

I’m on my second day of a fast.  I had two Atkins shakes this morning (along with a multivitamin and an Advil), and I don’t plan on having calories again until Thursday.  I’m not happy with how much my appetite has grown over the last couple of months, and fasting is the best way I know to reset that… but while it’s happening I find myself occasionally thinking longingly of the taste of paper towels.

Reading back over this, it sure seems like a big bucket of negativity, but that’s just a consequence of the moment.  A positive: I placed another order for Japanese puzzle books yesterday, and it’s coming in tomorrow, because Japan has their stuff seriously together when it comes to international shipping.  I even got a dot-to-dot magazine, because apparently those are okay for adults to do now, and I’ve always secretly loved them.  My lines aren’t very straight, but there’s something deeply satisfying about connecting things in numerical order.  A tiny ordering of the universe, a pushing back of entropy.  And you get a pretty picture as a side bonus.

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.

Weekly status update [0018/????]

Oh, hey, I’m actually writing this on Friday for a bit of a change.

  • I’ve moved on from reading Stephen King’s crime trilogy to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.  I’m about halfway through.  It’s excellent and dark as hell.
  • I actually beat Phantasy Star this weekend.  The game got very repetitive near the end, with mostly the same enemies in the last four or five dungeons.  I stopped mapping the game myself and switched to using online maps in my frustration, tearing through the endgame as quickly as possible.  The mid-game was a solid RPG, and the game was technically amazing; it honestly looked better than many SNES RPGs.  But was it fun all the way through?  Definitely not.
  • I’m now playing Shining in the Darkness.  It’s another “map it out on a piece of graph paper” game, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit more, at least for the time being.  The levels are huge, 30×30 each; fortunately the graph paper I bought has a smaller-scale grid on the back of each sheet, so it’s not a problem to map.
  • I finished the PS4 remaster of Assassin’s Creed II and started both AC: Brotherhood and Horizon: Zero Dawn.  They’re good games both, if a little too similar to each other.  I should pick just one to stick with for the moment.
  • While I was dealing with Linux being idiotic yesterday, I was also having to fight with the USPS.  They destroyed a package of board games from amazon.de, and apparently I’m going to have to fill out a bunch of forms to claim the insurance on the package, never mind the fact that they have a case file with a bunch of evidence that it is, indeed, destroyed.  Sigh.
  • Not a lot of TV.  I watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine every couple of days, but that’s it.  Same with puzzles; I don’t think I’ve solved a single one in the last week.  I have been continuing my watching of Landail play games on Twitch, although at the moment it’s mostly hate-watching due to the game he’s playing.
  • Keto continues apace.

It’s been something of an exhausting week, mainly due to the stress of dealing with USPS and my computer.  I’m actually glad that it’s the weekend now, which is honestly a bit of a strange thing to say nowadays, but there you have it.

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 [0015/????]

Sorry for the late update; last night was a bit rough and I had a friend over today.

  • Keto is going well.  I fit into a couple of pairs of shorts I haven’t been able to wear in a while, just in time for the hot summer months.
  • I finished up The Punisher, which was Just Fine.  Time to start Jessica Jones season 2.
  • I actually watched a couple of movies recently; specifically, I caught up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, watching both Black Panther and Spiderman: Homecoming.  Both of them were great in different ways.
  • Still slowly reading Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, which hasn’t grabbed me the way most of his books do.  After that I’ll go back to the Wheel of Time series, at least for one more book.
  • Did a bunch of puzzles, including the single largest Kakuro I’ve completed.  It took me about six hours (!), although at least two of that was because I screwed up and had to erase over half the puzzle.  Ugh.  I persevered, though, which made me happy; a younger Phil would have scratched through the puzzle and moved on.
  • Speaking of puzzles, my latest order of Japanese magazines came in.  I also ordered a pair of books for the daughter of one of my friends, who has done a bunch of Sudoku but not much else.  It was fun walking her through some of the different puzzle types.  I gifted her one of my precious Zebra M-402s.  She’s aware that’s the only one she gets.
  • My wrists are behaving way better than they had been, which is good, because my old braces finally gave up the ghost.  I ordered some new ones just a few minutes ago, actually.

A pleasant, quiet week overall.  I’m almost done with all of the first round of the Great Value flavor enhancers; expect to see an up-to-date review/ranking sometime this coming week.

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…

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 [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.