Even quieter than last week. Maybe next week I’ll just sleep for seven days.
I’m most of the way through Origin, which continues to be a perfectly fine version of The Thing in space, but not a lot more. The only other television-y thing I’ve watched since last time was the series finale of Game of Thrones, which, uh, yeah. It prompted me to write a thing, at least?
I finished Starhawk, which was dire, and made the mistake of continuing to another McDevitt novel, The Long Sunset. It’s not as bad but it’s still not great, and having it as my on-the-queue book has sapped my reading speed pretty dramatically. Ugh. On the plus side, a random suggestion in an AVClub thread about GoT led me to a (completed, thank goodness!) seven-book fantasy series. I put all of ’em on hold at the library–thanks, Cardinal system!–and they’re winging their way to the local branch as I type.
Borderlands at night, Portal Knights on Thursday evenings. I also put a lot of time into Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone, which is both the best rhythm game I’ve played in many years and one of the most uncomfortably Japanese games I’ve ever played in my life. What a combo. I’ve beaten every song on Easy and Normal and am alternating between songs on Hard and boosting my completion percentages and perfects on the lower difficulties. One thing you can’t criticize the game for is lack of content; it has well over 200 tracks, which I’m pretty sure is the most I’ve ever seen in any single rhythm game ever.
I’ve played quite a bit of Dominion on dominion.games this week after a bit of a hiatus. The person I play the most with is starting to get pretty good; it’s a hard row to hoe against me, with my nearly 900 plays, but they’ve gone from usually losing big to usually just losing, or even winning. In fact, they had their first “big win” night Wednesday, beating me in three of the four games we played.
I did a bit of streaming this week. My biggest stream was playing through one or two puzzles each of Everett Kaser’s “Sherlock” series of logic puzzle games. It forced me to revisit some titles I hadn’t touched in a while, and two of them I’m not very fond of, Baker Street and Mrs. Hudson. I still don’t like the latter very much at all, but I’ve found myself doing quite a few Baker Street puzzles after grousing about them on stream. I still don’t love them, but I do like them quite a bit more than I did. See, people can change. (Also, Mycroft’s Map is still ridiculously overwhelming. I don’t see how people play that game.)
This was an impressively uneventful week, even for me.
I wrote a short short story (what I tend to call a “vignette”) over the weekend; you can read it here and the story of writing it here.
I did some more Twitch streaming a couple of times across the week. I wasn’t in the mood to continue playing Live-a-Live, so I broke out an updated fan translation of Final Fantasy IV–the game we got here in the US as Final Fantasy II back in the early ’90s–and put in quite a few hours. It was quite fun; the game’s a sentimental favorite of mine, and the translation’s surprisingly high quality. I don’t know if I’m going to continue streaming it or not, but it felt good.
My car’s Check Engine light came on a couple of weeks ago, and replacing the gas cap didn’t fix it. I finally met up with one of my old coworkers to try resetting the lamp, but it turned back on the next day. My particular county in North Carolina doesn’t require emissions testing, so we’ll see come next year whether or not I pass the inspection despite the lamp…
I finished up watching the second season of Westworld, which was actually considerably better than the first, with a more coherent plotline that seemed to be saying more than just “look at these pretty visuals and ignore the mess this mystery box has made.” My follow-up show is Origin, a YouTube original that is solid (if derivative) so far.
Evening gaming sessions are still mostly Borderlands with the Thursday game slot taken by Portal Knights. We actually beat the main game of Borderlands this week and are working our way through the DLC. Whoever thought that making one of them effectively require making use of the awful driving engine needs to be firmly re-educated.
State Tectonics was fine, if not as interesting as the previous two books in the series. I’m now reading Jack McDevitt’s Starhawk, part of a series of SF novels I remember enjoying a bunch (and recommending on occasion). It’s… not good. Not good at all. I’m wondering if the book itself is a major dip in quality, or if I’ve become a more critical reader, or… ugh. I dunno. I’m going to finish it, because despite the not-greatness it’s a quick read, but it’s definitely a disappointment.
And just because it’s been a while: nope, still not bored.
In some ways, this week felt like more of a recovery period than last week, which makes no sense, but there you have it.
Speaking of which, I’m basically completely recovered from the surgery, other than my sweet sweet new scars. (I’m only being slightly facetious; the scar in my belly button is actually kinda cool, and the others are small enough that, once they’re no longer raised due to being so recent, they’ll be pretty much unnoticeable.) I’ve been taking a lot of naps and otherwise feeling pretty lethargic, which could partly be due to the surgery… or just because I’ve been eating like crap.
Also speaking of which, I’ve been eating like crap. I went back on keto for a couple of days and then pretty much immediately jumped back off of it. I’m giving myself until this Sunday to once again enjoy the delights of fatty starchy foods before trying to climb back on the wagon.
Most of my spare time has been playing videogames, and for that matter co-op stuff with friends. I played a bit of Monster Hunter World over a year ago, but the group I’ve been playing EDF with has pivoted to it and we’ve been playing it a ton. So much so that I didn’t go to bed until after 5am this morning, putting in something like ten hours last night. I also played Portal Knights for the first time on Thursday with my other co-op group, which was a fine, inoffensive take on “Minecraft with classes and levels.” And there’s still Borderlands several nights a week. It’s been really nice, actually, playing games as a socialization thing on top of the joy of just, y’know, playing.
There was a bit of Dominion Online this week as well, although not nearly as much as last week. That was the only boardgaming I managed to fit in.
Along with poking at several Everett Kaser logic puzzle games off and on throughout the week, I continued chipping away at Picross 3D Round 2. One day…
…and I finally made some headway in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. My plan is to read a bunch more of it today, after posting this, in hopes that I can mostly get through it and move onto the more interesting science fiction that’s hiding underneath it in my stack. If I find myself still stymied by the end of the day, I may move on anyhow, which feels a bit like defeat but more like acceptance that I’m just not that into the book.
My car threw a Check Engine light up last weekend. That obviously scared me, but a quick visit to Auto Zone and its OBD reader informed me that there’s something up with the gas cap. I bought a replacement; no dice. Apparently the gas cap sensor is broken. Eh. As issues go, I can live with it.
My new friend LisaLiisa just hit affiliate on Twitch. She was my one non-personal-friend subscriber, and she plays more regularly (and more interesting stuff) than I ever did. Check her out.
I could say that I spent most of the week recovering from my surgery, and I suppose that’s technically true, but honestly it simply hasn’t been a very big deal. I went from downing ~6 ibuprofen a day to 2-3 on Monday and stopped taking it entirely on Wednesday, and I’m not completely convinced that it was ever actually doing… well… anything in the first place. There’s still a bit of a twinge of pain when I sit down and stand up, but it’s extremely minor. I have a pretty sweet enormous bruise under my belly button now too that didn’t show up until Monday. But I also ran the roads, ate what I wanted, and otherwise lived a pretty dang normal life for me. Recovering? Ehh.
Speaking of which, I immediately proceeded to eat a bunch of things you’re not really supposed to eat whilst recovering from having your gall bladder removed, because I wanted to know sooner rather than later if diet was going to be an issue. Given that I’ve now had fried chicken, spicy tortilla chips, deep-dish pizza, and tons of ramen, I think I can conclusively state that there’s been no meaningful change to what my body can handle. Except, of course, I don’t have gall bladder attacks any more. Woo!
I’m pretty sure my Twitch experiment is done for, at least the more-serious daytime streaming I did that led me to finishing Final Fantasy III and Destiny of an Emperor. The combination of low viewership (which, I know I know, grows over time) and my desire to be “engaging” made it feel much more like work than like something I was enjoying. I’ll probably still do evening PS4 streams, because those are decidedly low-effort on my part, but otherwise I suspect I’m done. A shame, too, because my emotes are pretty sweet. We’ll see how long Twitch keeps me as an affiliate despite not actually doing anything worth, y’know, being one…
We had a board game night at Fercott on Tuesday, which surprised the woman who runs the place, given how close it was to my procedure. It was a chance to introduce someone new to more complex games, and I used Dominion for that introduction, as I think it’s in a sweet spot of “simple core, complex strategy” that can act as a killer gateway to bigger-box games. I wrote about my trepidation regarding teaching games earlier this week; given that I was teaching a game I’ve taught something like a hundred times, though, it went just fine.
I also played a ton of Dominion online via the official site yesterday, an even dozen of games over several hours with quite a few different people. (All friends, though; I don’t play with random folk.) All of the games involved Renaissance, which I continue to enjoy a great deal.
I watched two movies on Monday: Aquaman, which was Just Fine, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which may be the best superhero movie ever made. I don’t know that I can say anything about it that hasn’t already been said online, but: if you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s fantastic.
I may finally be reaching the end of Picross 3D Round 2; the last couple of book completions (sets of puzzles in the game) haven’t made new ones appear yet. It’s been a long haul and, as much as I’ve enjoyed the game, I’m pleased that it will actually be ending. Maybe not soon–there are still a lot of puzzles to solve–but having an end in sight may motivate me to play it faster.
Play of both Borderlands and Earth Defense Force 5 continues apace. I also started playing Live a Live, a SNES-era JRPG that was never brought to the States (but has a fan translation), as a follow-up to Destiny of an Emperor. I’m not streaming any more but will probably finish the game; it’s been quite interesting so far.
I sure should be reading this stack of books I checked out from the library when I thought I was going to be a bit more convalescent than I actually am. Hm.
So far, a strong recommendation for removing failing organs from your body. A+ would remove gall bladder again.
I had surgery to remove my gall bladder Thursday morning. One of my old coworkers was kind enough to wake up before 6am (thanks, Jon!) and take me to the hospital; I was back home before noon, and now sport four sweet incisions on my belly that look like they were sealed with Krazy Glue. (I assume it’s super expensive medical-grade Krazy Glue, but Krazy Glue nonetheless.) Apparently the doctor was quite impressed with the size of the gallstone that had started to cause me problems, so I was quite lucky that the attacks had only started very recently. Anyhow, I drove myself to Walmart Friday morning and have been up and about (barring the occasional nap) ever since I got home, using heavy duty painkillers like, uh, the over-the-counter ibuprofen I used to take every night anyway. Sure, my lower stomach hurts quite a bit every time I stand up, sit down, or otherwise flex those muscles, but, y’know, it’s just pissed that there’s bits that have gone missing. Barring some catastrophic setback, as recoveries from surgeries go, this one is gonna be easy-peasy. Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes and checking-ups, both friends and family.
In other news, the long darkness of NickCapricorn’s Twitch channel is over, by which I mean he finally beat the hot mess that is Final Fantasy II late last night (or early this morning, depending on how you count it). I was co-pilot for almost all of the 37+ hours he played the game, and it acted as a constant reminder of why I should never, ever touch that miserable mess ever again in my life. (It’s the worst game I’ve ever beaten, I think, and I’ve beaten it three times: the Famicom fan translation that Nick was playing, the PlayStation Origins release, and the Gameboy Advance Dawn of Souls version.) He’s moving on to Shantae next at LisaLiisa‘s request, which is a game with its own problems… but nothing like FFII.
As I wrote about earlier this week, I also finished up a long game of my own on my stream, one that was much better than Final Fantasy II for about ninety percent of its length and then almost as bad right there at the end. You can read about that experience (and my thoughts on a particular brand of late-’80s game design) here.
We had an extended board game night on Tuesday where we played Concordia, which is still my favorite board game of all time. This was the first time we played with what I’d consider significant alternate rules; we used the “wine and cloth” Senator purchase row, along with the “Ægyptus” map board, which has several special rules on top of its quirky sail-down-the-Nile layout. One of the players was new to the game but had established that he picked up this sort of thing quite easily, and everyone had a great time. (Yes, I won, but that’s not why I enjoyed it so much.)
Despite still being under mild anesthetic effects, I managed to play a game of Dominion Thursday night online with friends thanks to the magic of dominion.games. I… kinda crushed them? It was nice having a computer arbitrate all the cards rather than having to fiddle with Tabletop Simulator, that’s for sure.
I continue to poke at Picross 3D Round 2‘s post game slowly but surely. It’s gotten brutally hard for some puzzles; I know I could dial the difficulty down, but… no. I simply can’t.
Dave Eggers’ The Parade was a fine, if unexceptional, short read. I have a stack of other books I checked out from the library, expecting a longer convalescence period than I’m likely to actually have, so I’m not sure how many of them I’m going to really get to.
Now it’s mostly just a matter of recovering further. The oddest result from my anesthesia, by the way, was that I got way worse at typing for about twenty-four hours. My best explanation is that Colemak is nowhere near as “deep” in my brain as QWERTY was for most of my life, and so I kept forgetting just where the damn letters were. Seriously, though, I was typing at something like half-speed until yesterday afternoon. It was weird.
Ugh. I’m pretty sure I’m having a (mild) gall bladder attack right now, one that woke me up after only getting four or so hours of sleep. It’s not so bad that I can’t function, which is a nice change from the previous ones, but: can this damned thing be out of me already?
My streaming adventures continue apace. I’m still playing Destiny of an Emperor, which sadly decided for its last hour or so to become way, way too hard. A total party kill after a long, grueling path through a series of caves set me off on stream Friday afternoon, with a non-trivial amount of cursing. It’s all the more painful because, up until this point, the game has been a lot more fair than other titles from its time period. You were so close, game designers. So close.
Speaking of which, I got my first subscriber who is not someone I know personally, a major milestone for any Twitch affiliate. That prompted me to take the time to finally make subscriber badges (for those unfamiliar, they appear next to your name on my stream’s chat, based on how long you’ve subscribed) and the first emote assigned to the channel as well. I actually did the first draft of the pixel art on-screen, although I spent much of the rest of the day tweaking the badges bit by bit until I was happier with them. Behold:
An online friend of mine has been interviewing at various big tech companies over the last couple of weeks, and that includes the one that once paid me moderate-to-substantial sums of money. Her experience was… negative, in several very stupid ways, which is deeply frustrating. This is not the first time that I’ve sent someone that company’s way to have said company stumble, and stumble hard, on the whole process. Ugh. Fortunately for her she already has one competing offer and is likely to get another in the next few days, so it’s not all bad, but still: get your shit together, former place of employment.
After not really touching them for a bit, I’ve swung back to puzzling some more. It’s been mostly digital; I’m still working my way through Picross 3D Round 2‘s post-game puzzles, which continue to be really hard, so much so that I generally can only tolerate one or two of them a day at most. I’ve also been poking at Mario no Picross 2, a Japan-only picross game that I’ve been playing off and on for over a decade now. It overcomes the limitations of the Game Boy’s screen size by making the full images out of four 15×15 quadrants which are solved individually. It’s a great game, but strictly for Picross Maniacs Only, as it starts harder than anything in the original Mario’s Picross–a game I’ve 100%ed at least twice–and escalates from there.
We finished up our Normal difficulty run-through of Earth Defense Force 5 and pretty much immediately started playing it through again on Hard. One of the regulars reminded me just yesterday that we actually also have the paid DLC missions to play through, which are always way harder than the core story missions, so hopefully we’ll be able to play again soon; we’ve had scheduling issues the last several days.
The usual Thursday evening digital tabletoppery occurred, this time with the son of one of the regulars joining us. We played Fine Sand, which is still a perfectly okay game, then switched over to dominion.games for a game of, well, Dominion. I screwed up in that game thanks to not noticing it was a Colony/Platinum joint but still came in a strong second after lagging hard most of the game.
Current attack aside, my apprehension for my upcoming surgery continues to grow. I wish it were already done so that I could be recovering rather than waiting for it to happen.
Chocolate Toast Crunch is amazing. It’s like a cereal version of Chuao’s stellar Spicy Maya chocolate bars, but without the cayenne pepper. Easily a top-ten cereal of all time. If you at all like chocolate-y sugar cereals, give it a try; I guarantee you’ll love it. (Guarantee not valid within one parsec of Sol. Limited time offer; some restrictions may apply.)
I feel a bit better after taking the time to write this up; that’s nice, at least. Chances of an early afternoon nap today: 95% and rising.
As Tom Petty once sang in that distinctly Tom Petty-y way: the wai~i~ting is the hard~est part.
The biggest thing I did this week was stepping up my streaming. I streamed almost every day, including last Saturday. Most mid-day streams have been old NES games; I finished up Final Fantasy III over the weekend and then moved onto Destiny of an Emperor, which so far is a quite excellent (if surprisingly hard) retelling of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms as an RPG. I’ve also done a couple of late-night streams where I did computerized logic puzzles on stream… and, surprisingly, at least a few people were willing to watch that. It’s kind of awesome building a small but non-zero set of regulars. I’m still not sure just how serious I am about this whole streaming thing, but for the time being I’m digging it.
Besides the on-stream stuff, I played a bit of Earth Defense Force 5 with the crew, some Borderlands cooperatively online with a friend, and also some Path of Exile with an online friend who is a big fan of the game. It’s basically Diablo II turned up to 11 (or maybe even 12), with roughly a million different knobs to tweak and builds to try. I’m not sure it’s really for me; I don’t know if I have the patience nowadays for its brand of maximal design. But I can appreciate it for what it is, and while some of its free-to-play systems are pretty scummy–paying for inventory tabs so you can actually hold a reasonable number of the various currencies in the game? Really?–you can get more than enough of “the experience” without ever dropping a penny on the title.
Having finished my big stack of books, I went to the library to check out some more, and… promptly haven’t touched them. I suspect I’m on a swing out away from reading, at least for the time being. (An exception: I’ve done some review/critiquing of someone’s writing, at their request. That engages a whole different part of my brain, though.)
Started to pay for the upcoming surgery, which brought to sharp understanding some of the differences between haves and have-nots in modern America. This is going to be expensive, totally blowing my planned budget for the year out of the water. Thankfully I have the ability to pay for it… but not everyone does. What a crappy, crappy system. Single-payer healthcare can’t come soon enough.
Something something time slipping into the future something.
My ultrasound on Thursday was an uneventful way to spend a bunch of money. I was hoping to hear back today from the doctor, but haven’t; hopefully I’ll have more news on Monday.
My continued “the opposite of keto” diet became a quest to eat a whole bunch of different instant noodles, for… no good reason other than that I’m fond of instant noodles, I suppose. My favorites have been the various Maruchan yakisobas (particularly their teriyaki chicken) and Nongshim’s Shin raymun, although I’ve discovered a bunch of different ones that are worth putting into a rotation of a carb-driven diet. The weather’s been cold here, perfect for slurping the noodles down at lunch…. and perhaps other times too.
I finished Guns, Germs, and Steel and moved on to John M. Ford’s The Dragon Waiting, which I just knocked out a minute or two before starting to write this blog entry. Both were excellent. The former has had more than enough written about it, so I’ll talk a bit more about the latter; it’s a retelling of events around the accession of Richard III of England, in a world where magic is real and Christianity never took over as the primary religion of Europe. It’s one of the rare books where you know the author did a tremendous amount of work in terms of research but you don’t feel like they’re showing off or trying to teach you something; the story is perfectly compelling even if you don’t know all the historical or literary allusions. I was also able to read it all in a day and a half of effort, rather than the three million hours that Ash: A Secret History took me, so it had that going for it as well.
My casual streaming on Twitch became rather less casual. I finally got streaming from my computer working; it was an enormous hassle because <insert rant about Linux audio here>, and still doesn’t work perfectly because <insert another rant about Linux audio here>, but it suffices. And the first day I actually streamed seriously from my computer I got raided by catsonurhead, going from two viewers to over a hundred. That was… exciting. That, plus a bit of nudging of friends, got me over the requisite fifty follower mark, which means that I’m now a Twitch affiliate. What does that mean? Well, it means I can actually make a little dosh from the whole Twitch ecosystem. I don’t expect to make much at all, but I figure: why the hell not? I like streaming anyhow, and if I can get something out of it, it seems silly not to. Feel free to follow me at http://twitch.tv/SunfallToEnnien, and I’ll happily take anyone’s free Twitch Prime subscriptions if they’re not already using them.
Speaking of videogames, the title I was streaming when I got raided is the original Famicom version of Final Fantasy III. I had started a game of it something like six years ago, back when Twitch was still a fledgling website, and decided to keep playing it for some reason. It’s a fun, if sometimes very rough, game. Other games played this past week for more than a few minutes include Earth Defense Force 5 and Overcooked! 2, although I think we’re mostly done with the latter; the DLC missions have gotten ridiculously hard, and I’m honestly pretty burnt out on it at the moment. Maybe we’ll come back to it in a couple of months.
I’m slowly getting better at kakuro, and should probably write a Puzzle Primer on them next week.
I’m assuming that, if I’m going to have surgery, it’ll be scheduled for this coming week or the one after. I’ll post here with the details, of course.
Had my appointment Wednesday morning with the surgeon that will likely be removing my gall bladder. The consultation was short but informative, and I have an ultrasound scheduled for next Thursday to verify that I have gallstones, after which the actual surgery can occur. I’m bummed that it’s taking that long, because this is already messing with my plans to travel back home in April, but “getting healthy” is obviously more important than “fun retirement travelling.” Still: sigh.
Still reading Guns, Germs, and Steel. It’s excellent, but like most non-prose non-fiction I’m finding it a slow read. I plan on concentrating on it more this weekend, though, in the hopes of knocking it out.
I finished up all of the puzzles in Penpa 2019 that I plan on doing (there’s a type, Number Link, that I just don’t like at all). My total time for the puzzle book was over 3000 minutes, or fifty hours. Not bad for a $14 investment. The longest individual puzzle was a Ripple Effect that took me nearly two hours and still had some errors in it, with a Heyawake–probably my weakest of Nikoli’s commonly published types, not counting Number Link–coming in a close second. I also did a smattering of other random puzzles from various books and magazines, but I’m taking a bit of a break after the brain-squeezing pain that those last puzzles in Penpa 2019 gave me.
An extended game night on Tuesday led to me playing El Grande for the first time ever, which I wrote about here.
We beat Earth Defense Force 4.1, and have moved on to Earth Defense Force 5, which is excellent so far, and different enough that it doesn’t feel like “more of the same” immediately after its predecessor. That said, I’m planning on taking it a bit slower than EDF4.1, which I came close to burning out on several times over the last few weeks.
I still watch Twitch on the regs (and I stream most evenings as well). I’ve been staying away from Landail’s channel for a variety of reasons, but I had to come back this past week, as he was playing Mario Golf for the Gameboy Color. It’s a game I convinced him to add to his list of RPGs, and I felt an obligation to watch him play it. The number of people who wandered into his channel and were baffled that he was playing a golf game was… impressively high. He beat it just an hour or so ago, as of the time of this writing, and seemed to really enjoy it despite the fact that he had never really played a golf videogame before. Mission accomplished, as they say. Now I kinda want to play through it myself…
“Classic recipe” Honeycomb: still nowhere near as good as when I was a kid. Cookie Crisp: mediocre. Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys: probably the best cereal I’ve ever had? Being off of the keto diet due to my gall bladder isn’t all downside.
I’m unsurprisingly apprehensive about Thursday, even though an ultrasound is no big deal, because of what it is likely to result in. That said, I want all of this to be over, one way or the other. I’ll post an update here on Thursday (or whenever I hear the news), one way or the other.
Running a little late this week, but it’s for a good reason, honest.
Most of my spare time was spent playing videogames, primarily Horizon: Zero Dawn. I’ve been enjoying that game quite a bit. Its controls are (mostly) less janky than the Assassin’s Creed titles I’ve been playing recently, and although I thought I knew where the story was going, it took a couple of unexpected twists that I’ve quite enjoyed. And Aloy is a delightful main character, a smart, self-assured young woman who is supremely competent at beating the tar out of robot dinosaurs. More like her, please.
Evening EDF4.1 runs continue apace. I’ve still been streaming several of them… but no one comes to watch, so I’ll probably stop doing that sometime soon.
I’m a little over halfway through the third season of The Expanse, which continues to be excellent. It’s without a doubt the best “traditional science fiction” show I’ve seen in a very long dime.
Thursday night’s Tabletop Simulator play went quite well. The big game was Aeon’s End, a game I had only played once before. I still think it’s a very good game, if a touch slow… but presumably that slowness will abate as people get used to, y’know, playing the game.
The reason I’m running late with this: I spent most of Friday hosting Inverse Phase, one of my favorite chiptune musicians and an old online friend/acquaintance. He lives out of an RV now, and parked at my place while we went to JD’s Barbecue for some killer brisket and hit up several thrift shops looking for old tech. (The best thing we found was an original NES controller in good shape, alas… but those are pretty rare.) It was nice to visit with someone, for sure! And you should check out his music. I’m particularly fond of his cover albums; his Pretty Hate Machine song-for-song covers are amazing, and his version of “Drive” I find almost as affecting as the original.
Now to get back to HZD. I’m so close to the end. So close.