The pleasures of simplicity

I’m back in North Carolina, and glad to be back.  My reaction actually surprised me; I opened the door to my house with a bit of trepidation, but it smelled like–felt like–home from the moment I stepped inside.  I’m still not fully unpacked from the trip, but I made a start of it last night, and already did the necessary errands around town this morning to get my mail, buy another clipboard after I left mine at Mom’s, and so on.

That said, it was a wonderful trip.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, this trip was pretty much designed-slash-planned to be neither designed nor planned.  Back in Baton Rouge, I saw people who put forth the effort to contact me after an initial “hey, I’m in town” blast to old friends and coworkers, and didn’t worry about the rest.  There were lots of days spent lazing around my mom’s house, solving puzzles or watching Broadchurch, and I ate out probably half as much as I typically do when I visit.

There were a lot more lunches and dinners at restaurants in Fayetteville, but the visit was still pretty low-key.  Dan and I spent a lot of time playing couch co-op Diablo III, which is just about as non-committal as you can make a videogame.  Any less thought involved (at the low levels, at least) and you may as well be “playing” Cookie Clicker.  The only really planned outing was to Crystal Bridges, and the plan for that changed several times throughout the week as other things came up.  In previous times that would have stressed me out.  But, no, we went on Sunday and it was really nice.  I could have stayed for hours and hours more; I love museums.  But it gives me something else to look forward to on the next trip to Arkansas.

All along the way, my general response to any planned outing, get-together, or choice of meal was “sure, why not.”  Back in Louisiana, the few evenings with Stuff Happening were strictly first-come, first-serve, rather than my previous attempts to satisfy as many people as possible, even if it meant shuffling a lot of things around.

And the lesson?  That old way is for chumps.  Cutting scheduling down to the barest minimum doesn’t just make things less stressful, it makes them more fun, because there’s room for spontaneity when before there was too much “oh, no, I’m meeting whoever at whenever, I can’t do that”.  Keeping it simple also kept it pleasant, and when your trip has God-awful drives all around it, you can do with as much pleasantness as possible.

(Also, no matter how much I kvetch about the drive, it’s still better than flying.  You lose a day either way, but most airlines don’t have the ability to satisfy a craving for a Blizzard, or a desire to just get out and not be moving for a few minutes, at 30,000 feet.)

So my future plan, even for the Big Holiday Visit, is to keep it low on planning and high on “yeah, sure”.  I’ll try and make sure the one big game night happens, but that’s about it, and if even that falls through I won’t be too sad.  Heck, I played Concordia four times while I was in Baton Rouge, which is roughly infinity percent more than I expected, and half of those games were spontaneous ones with the neighbors.  Who knows what other fun I’ll discover later this year?

Weekly status update [0011/????]

The majority of this week has been spent with an old coworker and his family in Fayetteville, AR, just hanging out.  It’s the last leg of my vacation before I head back to Lenoir.  As such, here’s a quick list of some stuff I’ve done:

  • Ate a bunch of tasty food.  Fayetteville has totally respectable Thai and Vietnamese, an excellent grilled cheese shop, and not one but two good frozen custard/concrete shops.  Yum.
  • Played a lot of Diablo III with said coworker via couch co-op on the PS4.  It’s good, mindless fun.
  • …not a whole lot of anything else.  A bit of puzzling, a bit of reading, even a game of Concordia, but for the most part it’s been a nice, quiet, low-key visit.  Which I’ve very much enjoyed.

As mentioned before, I plan on being back in Lenoir early next week, and hope to resume a more regular posting schedule then.  See you soon!

(P.S.  Still not bored.)

Half-remembered creaks

Sorry for the lack of updates.  I made it back to Baton Rouge safe and sound after  a very, very long day of driving Saturday, and I’ve been choosing to spend my time elsewhere rather than staying at the computer so much.

Normally, when I come back home–and while I do think of Louisiana as “back home”, I think of my house in Lenoir as home, which is an interesting distinction I hadn’t really realized I made until recently–I try to pack in as many restaurants and as many visits with old friends as possible.  Not so much this time around.  I haven’t even made it to my favorite restaurant in the worldquelle horreur!  Normally it’s the first stop when my mother picks me up from the airport, before we even go home to drop off the luggage.

Part of it is that I really want to take it easier than I usually do.  Now that I’m retired, I suspect I’ll be coming back home twice a year rather than just once, and those stays are likely to be longer.  So there’s less of a need to pack it all in, to make the experience the most time-efficient thing possible, to ensure maximum value.

Part of it is that I’ve also decided to take a more passive role this time; normally I do a lot of coordination to make visits and meals and all that jazz happen.  I’m not doing that this year.  I’ve let everyone know that I’m in town and available for meals; if they choose not to follow up on that, well, I’m just as content eating at home and solving some puzzles or watching a movie with Mom.  I hung out with one of my old friends all day Monday, and will be doing so again this coming Saturday, interspersed with the usual family visits.  If people really want to see me, they can put in some minimal effort to make it happen.  I’m not going to force the issue.

So far it’s been an extremely pleasant trip.  My timing was always meant to make sure I caught the tail end of the cool season, when it’s not too wet yet but the days aren’t face-meltingly hot either.  It worked perfectly.  I spent most of yesterday reading on a swing on the porch, a cool breeze sweeping through the whole time, and today is genuinely chilly.  A month from now and Louisiana is going to be hot and sticky.  No thanks.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read.

Weekly status update [0008/????]

I’m writing this right before crashing out early for tomorrow’s trip; I plan on getting up at 5:30am and hitting the road by 6am so that I can get into Baton Rouge at something resembling a reasonable hour.  We’ll see how well I manage.

  • In preparation for the aforementioned trip, I picked up a Samsung Chromebook 3 from Amazon this week.  My full assessment will have to wait until I’m back, but so far I’m pretty impressed.  It even natively supports Colemak, which came as a pleasant surprise.
  • Speaking of which, my wrists are behaving quite a bit better… or, at least, they were, until I was lazy last night and didn’t put them on before going to bed.  Sigh.  I plan on wearing them for at least most of the day tomorrow, which should help some, but I’ve got to stop doing that.  It’s not doing me any favors.
  • Not a lot of gaming this week, other than the usual little stabs at the various free-to-play games you’ve gotta do every day to keep up with the grind.
  • Well, that’s not entirely true.  I had a couple of old coworkers/friends over on a whim yesterday afternoon, and we had a blast playing video pinball (both Pinball FX 3 and The Pinball Arcade) along with the perennial Towerfall Ascension.
  • I went to a farewell dinner for one of my old teammates; they’re moving to Raleigh, which makes me sad to see them go, but I suspect they’re going to be a lot happier there from a social perspective.  It’s rather too quiet here for most people.
  • (Re)read some more of the Culture series, watched a few more episodes of The Punisher, solved more puzzles.  Steady state, in other words.

Now to try and get some sleep.  I usually have a lot of trouble sleeping the night before traveling, but I hope that won’t be the case this evening, particularly given how much less stressed I am about this trip than, uh, any other one in living memory.  I guess it’s time to find out!

That common child’s refrain

Now that I’ve gone and decided that I’m taking a trip back to Louisiana this weekend, I’m stressed out.

Unlike, well, just about any trip I can ever remember taking, though, it’s not the stress of the unknown, the stress of uncertainty; I’ve written about that before, and it’s definitely a huge problem for me, but no.  This is the stress of already wanting to be there.  To set out as early as possible tomorrow morning, not waiting until Saturday, and booking it hard back home.

That’s the wrong thing to do; for one, it puts me in Friday traffic in Atlanta, and I’m pretty sure I’d rather punch myself in the face repeatedly than deal with that utter mess.  And my mail hold doesn’t start until Saturday, and I still need to pack, and and and… but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m antsy.

As irritating as this is, it’s actually a really good thing.  I literally can’t remember ever being rarin’ to go on a trip.  Even the one that took me here to North Carolina, five-and-some years ago, was mostly filled with apprehension; I thought that getting the job was some sort of huge mistake on the company’s part, and that I’d be found out as a fraud immediately, and have to return hat in hand to LSU in six months’ time.  (Turns out it took them five years or so to figure that out.)  And every trip since, whether it was for business (usually) or for personal reasons (rarely), made me stress out about all the ways it could go wrong.

And there’s nothing saying that my newly-fixed-up car won’t break down on Saturday as I head across five states, to be sure.  But I’m not worried about it.  And that’s a new, exciting feeling.

Preparations for launch

Now that I’ve got my car all fixed up and my taxes paid, I can do the one “big” thing I planned to do this spring: take a road trip back to Louisiana to visit family, with a stop in Arkansas to hang out with a friend for a few days.  My loose plans to do this became decidedly more concrete this weekend after conversations with both that friend and my mother, and I’ll be heading out Easter Saturday so that I can be back in Baton Rouge for Sunday.

For the first time in a long time, rather than feeling apprehensive about travel, I’m actually looking forward to it.  That despite the fact that it’s a 13ish-hour drive from where I live to my mother’s house; Saturday’s gonna be a long day.  But I’m not filled with the slowly growing feeling of worry and stress that usually accompanies any sort of travel that I do, and that’s exciting.

That’s not to say that I don’t have to make preparations.  (Ugh.  Double negatives.  I’m going to leave that the way it is, but now I can see why grade school English was so down on the form.)  I no longer have a work laptop, and I suspect I’ll want to check my email at least once or twice while I’m gone, so I ordered a cheap Chromebook last night; opinions on the device forthcoming once I take the trip.  I don’t have a car charger for my phone either, which uses USB C.  That was another late night Amazon order.  I didn’t actually go to bed until almost 5am last night as I kept thinking of things I needed to do.

But it’s a good busy, not a bad one, and I find myself actually anxious to go rather than anxious about going.  Maybe I’ll actually be able to do some semi-regular traveling now that I’m retired, if this turns out well.  That’d be a pleasant surprise discovery, that I actually like tooling around in my car and visiting people and places at the (relatively) leisurely pace that unemployment affords.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still finding out things about myself, this many years into my life, and yet here we are.

Now to figure out how many changes of clothes to bring…

Weekly status update [0006/????]

Weekly adulting level: High.

End-of-week energy level: So low.  So, so low.

  • I spent most of the week avoiding full day binges at the computer and PS4 in an attempt to baby my wrists given my long-running issues; it’s helped quite a bit, but I’m going to keep it up for another week at least.
  • Because of that, I haven’t been typing very much.  I’m still in the low 60s typing speed wise, which is simultaneously more than fast enough for… anything, really… and still so much slower than my traditional typing speed that it’s driving me nutso.  I wanted to start properly drilling this week with the help of gtypist, but I’ve only done a bit of that thanks to the whole wrist thing.  In a couple of weeks, though… yeah.
  • The visit to the ENT went really well, and I recommend seeing Dr. de Neef at Carolina Ear, Nose, and Throat if you need to see someone and don’t have a regular.
  • The other big bit of adulting was me getting all of my stuff together and bringing it (digitally) to H&R Block for that most dreaded of American traditions: taxes.  I did that yesterday, and found out today that I owe… a lot.  Nearly forty grand a lot.  The raw number was a bit shocking, but I knew it was going to be a huge tax bill, since I sold almost all of my tech company equity at the end of last year.  Still, ouch.
  • That said, with all three of those essentially done, I can now start planning for a multi-week road trip to Arkansas and Louisiana to visit friends and family.  I’m actually pretty excited about this!  Which is rare for me, because as I’ve mentioned before travel is most definitely not My Thing.  I’m looking forward to the languid “go whenever, leave whenever” possibilities for visits that being retired affords me, though.
  • I finished the second season of The Expanse, which was even better than the first.  Still working on Transparent, although I’m close to the end there too.  I really want to start on the second season of Jessica Jones next, but my completionist tendencies mean that I have to watch Punisher first.
  • My other big “not gaming, not computing” time sink has been a reread of Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels.  I made it through the first two this week, and am already about 20% of the way into Use of Weapons, which remains the hardest one to reread.  (I’ve done this “read them all” thing a few times already.)  After Weapons, though, the rest of the series is smooth sailing.

…that’s a lot of text, and my arm is tweaking a bit, so I’ll stop there and settle back down with my book.  But, hey: progress on actual life things!