Weekly status update [0044/????]

Another quiet week; I’ll try to be less blather-y than last time.

  • I finally finished Ash.  It was definitely worth the read, even though I probably did permanent damage to my eyesight with that damn book.  It’s hard to recommend, though, given its length… but I’ll recommend it anyway.  Gritty, clever, and moving, it made for a superb read.  And if nothing else it’ll take you ages and feel like an accomplishment when you’re done!
  • I’m now reading The Labyrinth Index, the eighth book in the Laundry Files series.  It’s very good so far, although the setting is very, very bleak (for reasons that are pretty major spoilers for the series as a whole).  Despite it being a much quicker read than Ash–how can it not be?–I find myself putting it aside constantly to do something else.  It’s not the book’s fault; it’s that I’m pretty drained on the reading front.  I’m gonna finish it in the next day or two, though.
  • As mentioned earlier this week, the puzzle stuff I’ve been working on with Krazydad went live on his site.  We’re now working on… something else, that may or may not result in further puzzling goodness.  Further news as events warrant.
  • I’ve continued to poke my way through Tametsi, which is fantastic but also intensely brain-burning.  After uninstalling all of the free-to-play stuff on my PS4, I… basically haven’t booted it up since, other than to buy the new Williams pinball table pack for Pinball FX3.
  • I finished up a book of sudoku puzzles I had been working on off-and-on for, like, four years.  Well, mostly finished.  The last three puzzles suddenly required a bunch of advanced techniques that the other 209 didn’t; I know how to do those techniques, mind you, but I felt it was a betrayal of confidence in the structure of the magazine and called it quits.  One down, a million to go…
  • I’m not really watching anything on TV right now other than keeping up with The Good Place.  You are watching The Good Place, right?  It’s fantastic.

This weekend looks to be very ugly here, with incoming snow-storms.  I’ve prepped as much as is reasonable and am heading to bed early now just in case.  Hopefully I just end up snowed in rather than, y’know, snowed in and freezing.  We shall see!

Weekly status update [0041/????]

This one’s a day late, but there’s a reason for that.

  • I did it!  My sixteenth(ish) NaNovel, Ex Urbes, is done, as of about three minutes ago.  I wrote 50,214 words according to wc, and a few more than that according to the official NaNo word counter.  (They actually used to use wc as well, so it kinda bugs me that they don’t any more.)  It was an interesting experience, writing while retired, quite different from the way I’ve written NaNo before; I didn’t feel a lot of time pressure, so found it hard to do much more than 2-3K a day.  Yesterday put me at 38K, though, and I decided that I was gonna finish this weekend come Hell or high water… and when I woke up this morning I went, no, I’m finishing today, dammit.  And so I did. 12,369 words in one day is less than half of my peak, but it’s a pretty sizable chunk, roughly fifty pages or so of a typical book.  Not bad.
  • What is bad?  The novel.  It’s terribad.  But I’m glad it’s done.
  • Ways I’ve wasted time this week while not doing NaNo:
    • I continued to watch an episode of both Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine each day.  I’m almost at the end of the first series and the end of the last released season of the second, so that’ll be over soon.  I… should probably watch more Sabrina, but as an hour-long show it felt like too much of an indulgence this week.
    • I also did a bunch of puzzles.  I got another order in from Japan on Monday, and it included the latest Nikoli “Penpa” magazine, a superb variety mag they put out once a year that’s always my first recommendation to anyone who says they want to branch out and try things that aren’t sudoku.  I’m doing the book in round-robin format, doing the first puzzle of each type, then circling back to the start of the book to do the second, and so forth.  It’s been a nice variety.  (I skip Numberlink, though.  I hate those puzzles.)
    • Lastly, I’ve been watching Twitch sporadically.  I no longer really watch Landail, due to some creepy sexist stuff that goes on there that I decided I couldn’t really be part of any more, but catsonurhead is still awesome, and I’ve started watching some native Spanish-speaking streamers who also manage English better than I ever will their language.  The number of watchers on their channels are low, so it’s got a nice community vibe.
  • We also had an extended game night this week at Fercott Fermentables.  We played Antike II, and I won, although for most of the game I was strictly mid-pack.  That game is absolutely fantastic, and it sang with five players.  I look forward to bringing it home for the holidays and playing it (along with Spirit Island) with my next-door neighbors.

I still have a stack of books to read, many of which are close to being unrenewable, so I’m going to get cracking on those tomorrow.  But for the rest of tonight I plan on vegging out and watching Twitch.  I think I’ve earned it.

Weekly status update [0040/????]

Writing, huh?  This is writing, right?  This is gonna be a short one, given what’s going on.

  • It’s NaNoWriMo.  As of just a few moments ago, I cracked 16,000 words on Ex Urbes, the cyberpunk thriller I’m writing instead of Sharp because I had a lot of trouble with that story, as I wrote about.  Ex Urbes isn’t any good, but it is easy to write, so that’s been working pretty well.  I haven’t yet had one of my typical “amazing days” that help me knock out the novel sooner rather than later, but I’m ahead of the standard month-long pace, and am likely to continue pulling ahead even if I never have a burst-writing day.
  • One of the problems with NaNo, though, is that I feel like I can’t do the other things that I like to do, because I should be writing.  I still have a big stack of books that I need to read, but I can’t read, because I should be writing.  I’ve barely touched my puzzle books, because I should be writing.  What that actually means is that I end up watching Twitch and browsing too much stupid stuff on the Internet, because those are lower commitment, but wasting more time than I would if I allowed myself the other things.  Ugh.
  • have been watching a bit of TV, though.  I finished up Orange is the New Black, and intentionally haven’t added another drama to the list.  I also haven’t watched Sabrina past the fourth episode.  Mostly I watch a single episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth each day, plus The Good Place on Hulu the day after it airs on TV.  That feels like little enough to be messing with NaNo.

I need to finish up this novel so I can put books back on the agenda.  I’m going to aim to do that over the next week, but we’ll see if that happens.

Weekly status update [0038/????]

As promised (and expected), a comparatively peaceful week.

  • I read eight or nine more novels in the pre-NaNo rush.  Five of them were The Long Earth and its sequels, a collaborative effort by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter.  They were… fine, I guess?  The setting was neat, but none of the books really had a plot, per se, other than the fourth.  Mostly they were picaresques.  Easy reads, though.  Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net was much more interesting, a pretty obvious reaction to the typical cyberpunk stories that the man had popularized with his Mirrorshades compilation.  I’m currently in the third (of four) “Okie” novels by James Blish.  The compilation sorts them chronologically rather than in publication order, and it shows; this third one was the first written, and feels a lot rougher than the others, in the weird sort of way ’50s sf often does: absolutely crazy stuff happens (like sending a planet out of the galactic plane as if it’s no big deal), and the book treats it as a fait accompli.  It’s weird, but a nice change from the headier modern stuff I’ve been reading otherwise, so I’ll finish it up in the next day or two.
  • That said, I’m still going to have a ton of books left on my sofa at the start of NaNoWriMo, only four days away now, which means I’ll have to keep reading throughout the month.  It’ll be less of a problem than usual, I guess, since I don’t also have a job sucking up the oxygen (and time), but it’s going to be something of a first for me.
  • Speaking of NaNo, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about my upcoming novel, including thoughts about how it’s likely to end.  I think I have a pretty workable (if very rough) outline of the main body in my head.  That sort of thing often changes with the writing, and I’ll definitely let it if it needs to, but it’s a good start.
  • As part of the prep work for said upcoming novel, I had to look into the modern state-of-the-art for Google Web Fonts.  (You’ll see why… hopefully.)  I think I’ll be able to do what I need to do with a minimum of pain, although I’ll have to write a custom text-to-HTML translator for this novel so it’ll look right.  I’m… actually kinda looking forward to that?
  • Still watching a bit of TV.  I manage an episode of Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine most days, and Luke Cage and Orange is the New Black every other day or so.  I’m looking forward to finishing both of the latter shows, mainly because I want to bump The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina up on the queue for timeliness/thematic reasons.
  • Other than my usual free-to-play gaming, I’ve put quite a bit of time into video pinball in the last week or two.  Pinball FX3 has the Williams licenses now, and those tables have been fun to mess around on, but I’ve mainly been grinding Sorcerer’s Lair, which I still think is the best table Zen’s ever made.  I find it really strange that it’s their free-to-play table, particularly given how many hundreds of dollars I’ve sunk into all the other ones… but that’s fine.  It was interesting watching a Twitch streamer play the table for the first time, having the same dawning sense that I did many years ago of “oh, there is actually something to this whole pinball thing!”  Yes.  Yes, there is.
  • The diet’s been pretty much derailed for the last couple of weeks, at first due to the visit and then later because it’s always easier to say “tomorrow” than it is to actually buckle down and do the right thing.  I’m typing this up as a bit of public self-shaming to, you know, buckle down and do the right thing.
  • On a meta note, the new Gutenberg editor for WordPress is horribly buggy; it tends to eat anything after italics in a bullet point unless you do some stupid shenanigans, as one example that I had to deal with several times while writing this update.  I may go back to the classic editor for a while until they fix more of the bugs.

In the middle of next week begins the month-long adventure of NaNoWriMo, which will be… interesting, for sure.  I look forward to it with no small amount of trepidation every year (and wrote about it earlier this week), but I do look forward to it.  I don’t know how it’ll mess with my posting schedule here, though.  We’ll find out together, I guess!

(Also, Gutenberg ate the last couple of sentences of this post three times because of that stupid italics bug.  Ugh.  Back to the classic editor I go.)

Weekly status update [0036/????]

This morning was the first time this fall that the temperature dropped in my house overnight below my AC settings.  I have never been so prepared for autumn.

  • The mad reads continue.  I did a rare re-read of a library book this week, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, because I had also checked out the sequel.  To be fair, I didn’t know for sure it was a reread until the first page, when I went “this seems strangely familiar,” sending me digging through my library history.  It was worth re-reading, though; it’s basically a more comic (and less cosmic) take on the premise of The Laundry Files, which is one of my favorite series of all time.  The sequel was good, too.  That said, the real star of this week is the book I finished about twenty minutes ago, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.  It was very, very good.  I cried a lot.
  • Quite a few puzzles, too, although the pace slowed down during the week as I realized that I have a lot of reading to do if I want to be done with the stacks before November starts.  That’s almost certainly not gonna happen, but I have to try the best I can.
  • The same goes for television; I’ve managed to watch an episode of Last Man on Earth and Brooklyn Nine-Nine most days, but it’s been a while since I watched one of Luke Cage, and I haven’t picked up another dramatic show either.  That’s fine, though; I’m never going to feel bad about minimizing my time spent watching TV.
  • The only real event this week: there was a Hallowe’en shindig at my old workplace this Friday evening, and I finagled a +1 from someone.  It was nice to see folks–particularly the kitchen staff, who I miss like hell–even if I kept getting asked when I was coming back.  I’m glad I went, though.  It gave me an opportunity to taste a cherry-flavored Hint water as well.  They’re great.

Next week will be quite eventful; I have a cousin coming into the area for vacation, and we’ll be doing touristy stuff while she’s around.  Should be fun!  And then NaNoWriMo’s right around the corner…

Weekly status update [0035/????]

This’ll be a short one; it was a very quiet week.

  • Reading continues apace, although I got “stuck” for a bit on The Two Georges, an alt-history novel by Richard Dreyfuss (yes, the actor) and Harry Turtledove, who I assume did all the actual writing.  It was a just-fine book, honestly; the real problem was that it was a 1000+ page book in a 450-page binding, which meant the font was tiny and single spaced.  It took a lot of energy to read.
  • Continued watching The Last Man on EarthBrooklyn Nine-Nine, and Luke Cage.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch another episode of OITNB.
  • More puzzles, including a ridiculously hard Slitherlink that, I think, has permanently turned me off of the ones in the Gakken publications.  There’s “interestingly hard” and then there’s “requires flat-out guessing or psychic powers,” and a few too many of their puzzles are of the latter type.  It’s a shame, because I find even the hardest ones by Nikoli pretty trivial at this point, but I’m not willing to beat my head against those crazy-hard ones, so…
  • Nothing meaningful on the videogame front.  I did learn that Zen got the license for Bally/Williams tables after The Pinball Arcade lost it, which has me very excited; I much prefer the polish of the Zen tables, so seeing them do real pinball rather than the fantasy tables they usually do will be very interesting.

Like I said, a very quiet week indeed, perhaps the most “just the usual” week I’ve had since I retired.  No complaints here, though!  Other than that there’s no way I’m gonna get through my stack of books before NaNoWriMo starts in a few weeks…

Weekly status update [0034/????]

This is another hell of a week, but at least (mostly) not for me?  Thin comfort.

  • The trilogy that started with Ninefox Gambit stayed mostly excellent, although I wasn’t completely enamored with the conclusion.  Still, worth a read.  I also read a bunch of other books too.
  • Other book notes the first: I actually quite liked Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which is apparently Not The In Thing, but whatever.  (I’ll freely admit that its core “schtick” is one I’ve thought a lot about, which alters my judgment.)
  • Other book notes the second: Fortune Smiles is a fantastic short story collection by Adam Johnson.  One of the stories is very dark, but it warns you pretty close to the start, and if you read the book in chronological order you’ll be warned earlier anyhow.  This was another one of those “pick it up at random in the library” books that I almost certainly wouldn’t have ever picked on my own, so: yay library displays!
  • Other book notes the third: I’m in the middle of reading Harlan Ellison’s seminal sf collection Dangerous Visions; I can see how it would have been pretty damn transgressive in the late Sixties, although with the benefit of hindsight it occasionally has a whiff of Trying Too Hard.  Most of the stories are excellent, though, and as a whole it holds up impressively well.  My favorite bit so far isn’t one of the stories at all, but Ellison’s introduction where he tears into the whiny Old Guard and their complaints about how the new sf just isn’t the same as the old.  The fact that it could be taken almost verbatim as a tear-down of the modern “crisis” in sf that, for a while, centered around the whole Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy/etc. thing is delightful.  Everything old is new again, kids.
  • Despite continuing to read at a rapid pace, I also continue to check out library books at an even more rapid rate.  Half of my couch is covered in them.  I have thirty-five checked out right now, many of them huge tomes full of short stories that will take me forever to finish.  what am I doing
  • We had an extended game night Tuesday.  We played Concordia, one of my favorite games, and I did very poorly, coming in last.  Part of that was an idiotic play on my part in one of the final turns that cost me something like fifteen points.  I acted like a complete jerk at the end, though, so… I’m afraid I’m not a lot better about that whole situation than I was when I wrote about it last.  Ugh.  I’m not happy with myself about that.
  • Finished up Bojack Horseman season 5, which was amazing, and Jessica Jones season 2, which was… fine… I guess.  Started on Luke Cage season 2 and Orange is the New Black season 5.  I may actually drop that last one, which is veering dangerously close to the sort of “everything is miserable and you get to watch” modern take on TV that I just can’t handle.
  • I weighed myself on Thursday for the first time in, uh, almost a year, I guess?  I’m at 271 pounds; my best guess for how much I weighed when I started on this diet in late April is somewhere between 330 and 360 pounds, so I’ve lost something in the 60-90 pound range over a bit more than five months.  (In case you’re wondering, my goal weight is 180, which is technically overweight from a BMI standpoint but is actually on the line where I go from looking healthy to looking less so.)  That’s pretty damn good progress, even though I’ve got a long way to go.  I was also reminded that I should never, ever own a scale.  They ruin my  will with the irregular ups-and-downs.
  • Lots of puzzles, too; I’m finally getting to a point where I’m relatively confident in my Kakuro solving, and I continue to work on several other books and magazines on a one-off basis.
  • No prose, although I did finish up my Guide to the Cardpocalypse series.
  • I also came up with the core idea for my NaNoWriMo novel.  My current plan is to share that here as I write it (although probably not as body text, which would be overwhelming).  We’ll see if I still feel that way come November.
  • Mostly just the usual on the videogame front, although the launch of Hollow Knight on the PS4 made me buy it (again) and play it, since I find that sort of game way more suited to a big TV and recliner than my computer.  If you like Metroidvanias, I strongly recommend it.

Well, that was excessively long, so, uh… until next time!

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 [0032/????]

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!

Weekly status update [0031/????]

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.