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?
I’m writing this one early, since it’s entirely possible that by the end of today I’ll be without power for a week or so. That’s what I get for thinking that western North Carolina is all that different from Louisiana…
- Speaking of which, a non-trivial amount of time this week was spent on preparations for Florence. I bought a bunch of low-carb snacks, along with a lot of liquids (read: Coke Zero and, as an even bigger treat, Ginger Lime Diet Coke) to add thermal mass to my fridge, which is usually almost completely bare. Charged spare phones and, vitally, my Kindle Paperwhite; checked out a metric ton of books from the library, washed every scrap of clothing I have, et cetera. I’m as prepped as I’m likely to get. Now it’s just a matter of lasting through the storm.
- My reading binge continued, albeit at a bit of a slower pace. Noir wasn’t as good as The Serpent of Venice (both by Christopher Moore); I actually really liked the latter, although I have no particular attachment to either The Merchant of Venice or Othello. I thought it was quite a bit better than Fool, even. Now I’m working on The Black Opera by Mary Gentle, which is good if dense… and glancing over at the 25 (!) other books I have checked out. Woof.
- I also played quite a bit on the computer. Specifically, I finished off Creeper World 2 and its free Flash sequel CW2: Academy. I really liked it, although the time pressures in a couple of the levels were very non-traditional for the series. If you’re a fan of tower-defense-y RTS-y turtle-y indie-y games, the series will provide many hours of fun for not a lot of money. It’s available on Steam. Now to see if I can get Particle Fleet: Emergence working…
- Still haven’t touched the code for Dudes. Life got a little more hectic slash stressful than I like for jumping into something with that level of complexity.
- I did find time to watch a couple more episodes of Jessica Jones, which seems to finally be picking up steam halfway through the season. And the new episodes of BoJack Horseman dropped just this morning. I watched the first one and see no reason to believe it won’t continue to be, for my money, the best show currently “on television” (whatever that means in the streaming era).
- My order of puzzle books from Turkey finally came in after spending over a week in Customs. I’m super-stoked about them; there seem to be lots of neat, interesting puzzles inside, even if some of them (like the traditional logic problems) will be forever cut off to me since I don’t read Turkish. It’s every issue of the magazine ever published, and they only cost me $2 apiece even with shipping halfway around the planet, which goes to show just how big a price disparity there is on these sorts of things.
Right now I’m sitting in my comfy recliner, watching the wind steadily pick up in speed outside while I prepare to curl up with a book for a while. I’ll post again here later this weekend, assuming I can. See you on the other side!
After the (relatively) busy times of last week, we’re back to something rather more like my usual speed.
- I read a lot. A lot. I still have a stack of a good dozen books I checked out at the library (which prompted me to write my paean to the institution earlier this week), but on the whole I made a bunch of forward progress. Most of it was fiction; Lamb by Christopher Moore stood out, although it suffers from the problem that those most likely to get the most out of it are also those most likely to never, ever read it. The sole non-fiction book was Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, which was impressively readable. I typically take two to four times longer to read non-fiction, but I tore through Peak in a single afternoon.
- I also watched a whole bunch of TV for basically the first time in months. For whatever reason I was in the mood to give The Good Place a shot; cue spending much of three days tearing through both already-aired seasons. It’s extraordinarily good, probably the most clever show I’ve seen in years, with a bunch of genuine laugh-out-loud moments and a stellar cast. Most impressive (to me) is the showing that the main actors who aren’t Ted Danson and Kristen Bell make; I had never heard of Jameela Jamil, not being British, and she is absolutely fantastic in her role as a do-gooder aristo. The real find–I assume everyone in Britain already knew of her awesomeness–is William Jackson Harper, who plays against Bell’s “banality of mediocre not-quite-evil” with a combination of exasperation and existential dread that is absolutely pitch-perfect. Never has the word “what?” had such an impact. I don’t want to write an article on the show, because to really cover what I’d like to cover it’d be spoiler-y as heck, but if you haven’t watched it yet: what the fork are you doing?
- After getting my second Burnout Paradise Platinum trophy (per my past article, the game thankfully only has one really stupid one), I went back to mostly just playing my daily free-to-play stuff on my PS4. The computer’s another matter, though; I’ve been on a huge “old strategy game” kick, playing the original Heroes of Might and Magic and Warlords and other games of that ilk. Most of the time has been with Creeper World 2, which is… wildly different from the first and third games, not just in raw design–the side-view thing is a big twist–but also in its heavy use of timed stages. Lots of fun, though.
- Other than all of that, just the typical “spending too much on games I don’t need,” on both the digital and board-type front. You know, the usual.
- I haven’t touched the code for Dosat yet. Soon.
To be fair, after the relative excitement of last week, it was nice to mostly just curl up with a stack of books and get my literature on. Which I will likely continue this coming week… to my distinct pleasure.
A busier week than usual, that’s for sure.
- I spent a non-trivial amount of time this week playing Burnout Paradise Remastered on my PS4. I spent something like 60-70 hours in the game back on the PS3, and it was a delight to play it again… although I don’t plan on doing nearly everything there is to do in the game like I did back then. Racing games generally leave me cold, but there’s something about Paradise that makes it a delight to play. Except for the fact that it plays “Paradise City” every time it boots up. Ugh. I have to mute the TV each time I start the game.
- We had a board game night Tuesday at Fercott. We played the second edition of London; previously, I enthused about the game, and I still think it’s really good, but I also think that you probably shouldn’t play it with more than three people, and really two is best. There’s too much “luck of the draw” for the result to be very stable at four. (I’m not just saying this because I got crushed… but I got crushed.)
- I spent much of Wednesday up in the hills and mountains with a friend; we went to Wiseman’s View. A non-trivial amount of the trip’s time was spent on the barely-maintained gravel road leading to the View, and we were the only people there, which was a bit surprising; the day was beautiful, if warm, and the sight down into the gorge utterly stunning. I had a really good time. It was nice actually getting out in the woods and into the sun; as I lose weight, my desire to take up hiking is beginning to grow again. Perhaps next season.
- I went to the library Thursday to get a single book I had on hold and ended up with ten, which went into a stack with a bunch of other books I’m behind on reading (mostly thanks to Burnout Paradise Remastered). I’m almost done with one today, though, and plan on tearing through much of the rest in short order. Libraries are awesome and people don’t use them nearly enough.
- The programming urge has been growing steadily stronger, so I finally steeled myself and bugged Donald X. Vaccarino (of Dominion fame) to release a game he wrote for himself as open source. He actually went for it, to my mild surprise. It’s written in Object Pascal with some very old DOS graphics and mouse tech; my current plan is to basically rewrite it 1:1 in C so that it’ll actually be maintainable into the foreseeable future. Once I get that done I’ll look into actual improvements to the game itself. I haven’t actually started coding on it yet; I plan to begin with some of the tools he wrote to mess with the data files, so as to get my feet wet again. But I am excited!
- I watched the first episode of Jack Ryan, mostly to get the Twitch bits. It was… fine? I mean, I love Wendell Pierce to bits, and after seeing A Quiet Place I’m down with John Krasinski in serious roles, but it sure feels not nearly enough removed from the torture porn of 24 for my liking. I may watch another episode or two… or I may not, given how little TV I’ve managed these last couple of months. We’ll see.
So, yeah, lots of stuff going on this past week, including some things I hadn’t done in ages. I look forward to working on the game, reading these books, and, y’know, in general continuing to chip away at the infinite rock face of “things I want to do.” As one does.
This was a week that even I found surprisingly quiet.
- After over a month of off-and-on effort, I finally managed to order a bunch of back issues of Akıl Oyunları, a Turkish puzzle magazine that comes highly rated from several people. It’s basically impossible to get in the United States without some serious shenanigans. Whether they’ll actually arrive successfully at my house or not is another matter entirely…
- I actually watched a tiny bit of television this past week, namely two or three more episodes of the second season of Jessica Jones. It definitely got better from the first, rather dire, one. I’m still not sure it’s good, and it definitely comes across as particularly weak after the fantastic first season, but I’m going to finish it off… if only so that I can watch the second season of Luke Cage.
- I even watched a couple of movies, another rare event for me. The Avengers: Infinity War was pretty much exactly what I suspected it’d be; I don’t want to talk about it too much, for fear of spoilers, but I can imagine some people who aren’t aware of comic book tropes were Real Shook Up by that ending. I also watched A Quiet Place, which was excellent. It had a couple of silly bits, but overall it was a finely-crafted bit of horror. It’s basically Signs but only 5% as stupid.
- After working on it off-and-on for well over a year, I saw the end credits of Picross 3D Round 2… which unlocked a whole other set of puzzles. Heh. This wasn’t surprising to me, as that result had already been spoiled… and I hadn’t gotten the final score emblem yet even though I’ve received a perfect score in every level. I’m taking the post-game easy, though, as I solved a lot of puzzles in a rush to get there, and it’s one of the few videogames that actually hurts a bit to play, due to the weird claw grip you have to hold the 3DS in.
- I’m not playing this one, but Landail is: he’s made it to Panzer Dragoon Saga, a game I played back in the late ’90s or early ’00s on a loaned copy from a friend. It goes for over a thousand bucks now (!!). I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t hold up to my memory… but, no, it’s still a beautiful, well-designed game. Phew. Sometimes it’s not Happy Sappy Delusion Syndrome muddling your memories of the past. It’s been a blast to watch.
- I actually made more-than-single-line changes to Giles over the past week. Nothing too exciting, mind, but it required me to actually look at some Python documentation, which is more of a commitment than I had made to programming in quite a while.
As is often true for a quiet week, I still somehow figure out how to write several hundred words…
Just gonna jump right in.
- My love affair with Planetside 2 is already over. Turned out that I was really good at gunning and really bad at the actual first-person shoot-people-with-guns bits… and while the former is useful some of the time, the latter is useful pretty much all of the time. After a bad night I realized that I just didn’t have it in me to “git gud” at the pew pews. It’s a shame, too, because I had finally convinced some friends to play with me… just in time to stop playing. Ah, well.
- On the other hand, Dead Cells is really good, and actually runs fine on my ancient Linux desktop. If you like Souls-style combat, platformers, and roguelikes, check it out. It’s coming to consoles in a few months if you’d rather not futz with Steam.
- I’m still slowly working my way through The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. It’s a bit of a slow read, like most Stephenson, although the story is captivating enough. It just sometimes requires more energy than I have available to put into the book. (It’s no Baroque Cycle, though; I remember being proud when I made it through more than 10 pages of those books in a single night. So dense. So dense.)
- I haven’t had to use my wrist braces in a couple of weeks, which has been very nice. They’re still sitting next to my chair just in case.
- I hadn’t tested my typing speed in ages, and I noticed that my mistake rate had dropped pretty significantly (of course, right now, I’m making tons of them… stupid observational effect), so I took another set of typing speed tests. I nailed 80wpm on this not-so-great Chromebook keyboard I’m typing on right now and 81wpm on my fancy mechanical keyboard, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m around that now with Colemak. That’s a ~10wpm difference from the last time I seriously tested myself, and it’s pretty much all down to error rate. It feels good to be back in the top 10% or so of typists with a whole new method, not gonna lie.
- Saw two back-to-back laser light shows last night (Friday) with friends, one for Rush’s 2112 and one that had a bunch of random famous Led Zeppelin songs. The 2112 show was better, with tighter synchronization and (in my opinion) better music, but the Zep show was definitely more of a crowd-pleaser. I had never been to a laser light show before; it was quite a treat. Chad and I immediately started musing on what modern albums we would like to see given the laser treatment. We both landed on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as a really strong candidate… as long as you cut out Kanye breathing into a mic for six minutes at the end of “Runaway.”
- Keto still going strong; I haven’t had a single cheat day yet, which might be a record. The losses are a little harder to see at the moment, but I can feel it in my shirts and see it on my face when I look in the mirror, and I have a good five more months before my first obligatory cheat period (going home for the holidays), so there’s plenty of time for more improvement.
- I just watched it this morning, but Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette on Netflix is… amazing and powerful and tough. Strong recommendation. It’s basically the only TV I’ve watched in the last couple of weeks.
Whew. That sure looks like a lot, given how little it actually feels like happened this week. That’s… good, I suppose?
Anyhow, just in case you were wondering or worried: still not bored!
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.
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.
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.
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.