Weekly status update [0063/????]

Let’s not even pretend.

  • 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.

Here’s a videogame thing: Destiny of an Emperor

Badness is worse when it’s surrounded by quality.

There are many terrible videogames. Most of them let you know they’re bad within the opening moments; they control poorly, play worse, and you immediately know, “yeah, this isn’t good.” If you soldier on, you do so with the knowledge of what you’re getting into. Hell, there’s a whole culture on YouTube and Twitch around playing bad games for the schadenfreude of it all: this person is doing this dumb thing, and we get to enjoy it, so doesn’t that make it–in a twisted way–good somehow1?

What I find much worse is slow-reveal awful. You’re enjoying a thing, be it a book or game or whatever, and slowly but surely it becomes more and more terrible. Characters make less sense, the game designers appear to have gone on vacation, and all the previous hours of pleasure are retroactively ruined by the sudden onset of suck. With literature, this often takes place across a long-running series, and so knowing when to get out while the getting’s good is important. (For example, I deny the existence of any Dune books past the second one, and sometimes even that one too. No, you can’t change my mind.) And that happens with videogame series as well… but it also tends to happen in individual games, due to a fundamental problem with how videogames are made. Namely: on a schedule, whether the game’s ready to be released or not.

Dragon Warrior II2 is notorious for having an absolutely relentless endgame, one that basically amounts to “is the pseudo-random number generator in this NES cartridge smiling upon me today?” in terms of how much control you the player have over its success. It sours an otherwise solid game, one that improves on the original along basically every axis, other than this one brutal misstep that pretty much pisses away all the goodwill the game built beforehand. And the folks who worked on the game later acknowledged the real source of the problem: they were in a rush, and the entire endgame went basically untested by any mortals before it was shipped out on carts to the world at large.

Well, Destiny of an Emperor is clearly inspired heavily by the Dragon Quest/Warrior series, from its menus down to many of its core mechanics, and apparently it took a little too much inspiration from Dragon Warrior II. I liked it at first, loved it for most of the midgame, and then right at the end the whole thing came tumbling down in a series of fights that basically amounted to, well, “is the pseudo-random number generator in this NES cartridge smiling upon me today?” Ugh.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game itself–which, I imagine, is most of you, as it’s definitely on the obscure end of the NES’ library–Destiny of an Emperor (hereafter DoaE) is a retelling of the extremely famous Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the formative pieces of Chinese literature. It’s a historical novel about the end of the Han dynasty, and it has been adapted mercilessly for film, television, and in videogames. Boy howdy has it been adapted for videogames. There is an entire series of strategy games that just steal the name outright, and the Dynasty Warriors hack-and-slash kill-’em-ups are all re-tellings of Romance. DoaE is a classic Japanese RPG rather than a strategy or action game, but otherwise fits in a very comfortable lineage of “things adapted from an old novel that is seminal to an entire culture.”

And, while DoaE is clearly, ah, let’s be polite and say heavily inspired by the Dragon Quest series, it also does some genuinely clever new things on its own. You control Liu Bei’s army, by way of leading a party of up to seven generals; each of those generals has some number of troops under his3 command which act like hit points in a more traditional JRPG. Weirdly, resting at an inn “heals” your dead soldiers, and by the end of the game you’re traversing caves with armies of a quarter million men or more, so it’s best not to think too much about that abstraction… but the game does some neat tricks with army size. Basically, each digit of troops you have active doubles your attack power, so you really want to hit 1,000 soldiers and keep over that number. By the end of the game you control generals with upwards of 30,000 troops apiece, and the scale of the battles feels genuinely significant.

The generals are handed in a very clever way as well. The army “levels up,” as in traditional RPGs, but that only affects a limited number of the generals’ troop sizes. Instead, you spend much of the game recruiting other generals–a procedure anyone who has played a Dynasty Warriors game will feel very familiar with–and popping them into and out of your party based on your needs. Some hit hard, some are good with tactics (the game’s equivalent of spells), and most have a fixed number of troops following them, so they can either immediately dramatically increase your armies’ survivability or are fodder for the recruitment office. The game only allows you to keep 64 generals back at the office–and just where are their massive armies?–and I had to clear out a bunch of dead weight at least once in the game to make room for more, higher-level generals.

The battles are also considerably more engaging than most JRPG combat of the time. You can have up to five generals in combat at a time, and they can pick their targets individually or use the aforementioned tactics to help themselves or hinder your enemies. Success is dependent on their strength for fighting or intelligence for tactics, and there’s quite a variety in what you can do to make tough fights easier. For the trivial ones, the game has an auto-battle feature where the two sides duke it out as quickly as the game engine allows, making the (too-frequent) random battles little more than a nuisance. Auto-battle? In a JRPG from the ’80s? Is this real life?

The game has a number of small-to-middling issues, unsurprising given its vintage. The tactics are untranslated from Chinese, other than being Romanized, so prepare to refer a lot to an instruction book or FAQ until you learn the names of the abilities and what they do. You should also take notes as to the locations of various towns and people, as you sometimes have to do non-trivial amounts of backtracking to similarly-named locations to find the next point to progress. And there are a couple of “dumb mechanics involving the fact that you’re playing a videogame” bits that probably felt clever at the time but now feel like unnecessary and obtuse fourth-wall breaking nonsense.

But those are all tolerable issues. No, the reason that Destiny of an Emperor soured hard on me is that the last series of plot-related battles all involve high-level enemy strategists. And those strategists use some pretty stupid abilities, which can:

  • cause your generals to literally not be able to attack for the next 1 to… I don’t know how many rounds, but I know at least one enemy use of it lasted ten turns… or
  • instantly heal the enemy general of all the “damage” (i.e. dead troops: are they zombies?) you’ve dealt them, potentially setting you back eight or more rounds of battle… or
  • decapitate one of your generals, causing all of their soldiers to instantly die. (Are they routed? Are they all decapitated too? Don’t think too much about this…)

Of course, rather than any of those patently ridiculous options, they can just choose to attack for a small amount of damage–they’re strategists, after all, weak on strength–while you wreck them in the face.

Which result will you get? Who knows! Only the PRNG can decide.

If I were still in the business of giving review scores to things4, I’d give the first ninety percent or so of Destiny of an Emperor a solid four stars out of five. It’s a little rough, sure, but the game came out in 1989 and is still quite captivating. (It also has an amazing soundtrack, and some really impressive spritework that I didn’t have time to get into, given how overly long this article already is.) But the last ten percent is a flat-out one-star experience. And it drags the whole thing down with it.

Is it still a good game? Yeah… sure… I guess. But it’s not great, and it could have been. It was so close. And that hurts a lot more than if it were just terrible from the start. What a shame.

The sequel’s supposed to be better, and despite being a Japanese-only release on the Famicom, it has a fan translation. I look forward to playing it… but not immediately. I need some distance from this particular take on the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Right now, revisiting this world doesn’t seem very romantic at all.

Weekly status update [0062/????]

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:
Four subscriber badges showing a gradual sunset, plus a larger emote image of a Black Belt from Final Fantasy III brandishing his arms.
Hopefully I don’t have to explain the whole sunset thing, given my Twitch username… and, yes, I’m still taking those sweet, sweet free Twitch Prime subscriptions if you want these.
  • 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.

Weekly status update [0061/????]

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.

And I have another two weeks to wait… sigh.

Weekly status update [0060/????]

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.

The tyranny of choice

I bought a subscription to Playstation Now yesterday, because it was only $60 for a year. And as I started to browse the games available, my overwhelming feeling was one of stress, of trepidation, rather than pleasure. Here’s another several hundred interesting games to go along with my existing PS3 and PS4 libraries, never mind the thousand-plus games I have on Steam, and all the game systems I don’t have hooked up right now! My DS and 3DS sit at arm’s length from me, both packed with even more experiences.

How exhausting it is to live in the Golden Age of content.

This golden age is part of why I’m always baffled when people tell me that they get bored. With hundreds of television shows, thousands of video games, and tens of thousands of books available at the modern consumer’s beck and call, how is it possible that you can’t find something to entertain you? People constantly inform me of shows on Netflix that seem totally in my wheelhouse–Mars is a recent example–that I’ve never even heard of, because there’s just so much stuff on there that hasn’t been surfaced to me by the app or my casual reading of websites like the AV Club. And that’s just one source of many.

But the golden age can be oppressive too. Where do you start, what do you dig into? I’m the sort of person who generally likes to commit to a thing, to play the game through to the end rather than just taking a nibble and moving on, to watch every season of the show or read every book in the series, and that makes picking content difficult. Thirty hours spent on thing X means that I’m not spending that time on different thing Y, which may be qualitatively better for me. Even though I’m retired, there are only so many hours in a day; there is a hard limit to how many more games I’m going to be able to fit into my life. The choice feels weighty, and there are too many to choose from.

I know I’m not alone with this problem. Being overwhelmed by choice is a common issue nowadays. I contrast it with when I was a kid; I had a Nintendo and a reasonable library of games, but a quick dig into my database tells me I have 36 titles for the original NES. That’s way less than I have for the Wii (66), a system I barely played at all, and a fair number of those 36 were acquired after the NES had gone off the market, from friends who had moved on or stores that were liquidating old stock, before the retro game boom. (I have a copy of Goonies II? When did I pick that up?)

And the Wii is old hat. My PS4 library has over 700 games in it, my PS3 one almost 600. That’s enough content to last a lifetime, but new stuff just keeps. coming. out. Television? With Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, there’s already way more to watch than I’m willing to set aside time for, never mind HBO and Showtime and all the old broadcast standbys. And my stack of puzzle books grows way, way faster than my ability to complete them.

I’m most of the way through Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is fantastic and absolutely deserves the Pulitzer Prize it won, and I wish I had gotten around to it sooner. But there are so many books that still beg to be read, stretching back over a hundred years, and the rate of publication is far greater than any fan can possibly keep up with. I stopped buying the vast majority of my reading material several years ago, relying instead on the library, and that mediation helps quite a bit… but my list of “things I need to check out” is near infinite and expanding.

Any one of these venues for entertainment would be enough to keep someone going for years. Having them all available is exhausting, with that constant question in the back of my mind: what do I do? What do I do? Limiting my passive screen time to a couple of shows does a lot to reduce that particular space, but it’s a decision to basically write off 98% of a particular medium, which seems like a shame… even if that decision feels absolutely necessary to keep sane in this modern era. And I try to do something, rather than sitting and spinning my wheels making a choice, even if it often results in me switching between three or four puzzle books over the course of the day, with reading and videogames interspersed in between. A goldfish-like attention span at least gives me the feeling that I’m getting something out of all the various media available to me, even if it’s not sustained in any one direction for long.

And then there are the days when I pick up a controller in the morning and don’t put it down until 4AM, when I curl up with a book and only leave my recliner to go to the bathroom, when the tyrannical bleating of choices is silenced or at least quieted. This is the thing I’m enjoying right now, and everything else can piss off. But those days are rare.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish up this damn book. And then play a game… or do a puzzle… or watch a show. I don’t know yet. I’ve gotta make a choice.

Weekly status update [0059/????]

Let’s just get to it, shall we?

  • 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.

Weekly status update [0058/????]

It’s been a bit of a rough week, if I’m being honest, albeit (mostly) a quiet one.

  • The roughness: I woke up early Tuesday morning in pretty serious pain radiating throughout the lower right side of my body. This had actually happened the week before, and again a bit over a month ago. Three times is “something serious is going on” land, and I called my mother to commiserate; she agreed with the assessment I had already come to, which was that it was likely I was having an issue with my gall bladder. I scheduled an appointment at a local clinic, and the PA who saw me there immediately agreed. I’m scheduled to see a surgeon next Wednesday, who will probably do some sort of CT scan to determine next steps, and in the meantime I’ve switched from the high-fat low-carb keto diet to a low-fat high-carb one. No attacks since, which is good, but I’m expecting to have to have surgery, which is… y’know… not so good.
  • Other things have been more mundane, thankfully. I finished up Watch Dogs, as mentioned earlier this week, and although I started on its sequel I couldn’t actually play more than a bit of it before having to put it down; it’s definitely a better game, but it’s still too similar to the first one for me to jump immediately into its world. We also played a bit of EDF4.1 and some Overcooked! 2.
  • I read a lot. The Lynburn Legacy books are done and dusted; they were perfectly readable, but not all that special or memorable, I’m afraid. Monstrous Affections, an anthology of “relationships with monsters” book that I checked out just because it had the original short story that spawned In Other Lands, turned out to be excellent from beginning to end, with a bunch of great little stories. Some of them I would love to see expanded into full-length novels, which is always a good sign for a short. I also read Connie Willis’ Crosstalk cover-to-cover today, which was good but not great, and definitely had some creepy behavior/Idiot Ball plot issues that I would have thought Willis would be past at this point in her career.
  • I also continued banging on Penpa 2019; I’m down to only five puzzle types left in the book, and that’ll soon drop to two, although the difficulty of those five types definitely continues to escalate as I reach their hardest sections.
  • Up until the issues Tuesday morning, I was actually super-proud of myself diet-wise, having knocked off quite a bit more weight thanks to very careful eating. Sadly that’s out of the window for the moment… but I’d be lying if I said I’m not happy to be eating cereal and milk for most of my meals now. (Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys are still amazing; the “back to the old recipe” Honeycomb still taste nowhere near as good as the version of my youth. Get Honey Buzzers instead.)

I’m obviously more than a little apprehensive about this coming Wednesday and what I’m likely to learn, but them’s the breaks when you have a body that steadily refuses to age any slower than one year per year. Sigh. Until then, I’ll mostly be curling up with books–I finally started Guns, Germs, and Steel about twenty minutes before sitting down to write this–and enjoying my cereal.

Weekly status update [0057/????]

What is it about “Reelin’ in the Years” that makes it get stuck in my head all the damn time?

  • I wrote a thing that I’m pretty proud of earlier this week. I’d appreciate any thoughts you had upon reading it; it’s pretty intensely personal, and (as one person pointed out) it has a few too many adverbs, but life-as-prose is surprisingly difficult to write and right now I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.
  • I gave blood for the first time since retiring on Tuesday. (The first scheduled drive after I signed up was at the beginning of January, when I was still back home visiting family.) It took too long, but I suppose burning an hour-plus every two months is small potatoes if it helps someone, and I definitely felt better after doing it.
  • I started on the second Lynburn Legacy book by Sarah Rees Brennan. They continue to be fine but not great, not nearly as gripping as In Other Lands, but they’re not terribly long either so I’ll finish all three of them for sure.
  • I finally finished the Platform Studies book on the SNES: Super Power, Spoony Bards, and Silverware. It was very heavy on the non-technical “culture and processes around the platform” side, which tend to be my least favorite PS books, but it was probably the best of that ilk so far. After the utter brilliance of I am Error, though, I can’t help but see it as something of a disappointment. With it, I’m fully caught up on the series, and have started reading The Friendly Orange Glow, which is all about the PLATO system. I’m only about twenty pages in and am already pretty fascinated by the book; I wasn’t expecting it to start with B.F. Skinner, that’s for sure.
  • Most of my game time has been with Watch Dogs, which continues to be aggressively mediocre to bad. I have That Thing where I have to play games in order, though, so I’m toughing it out so I can get to the (supposedly) much better Watch Dogs 2. Ugh.
  • I finally, finally made it under 270 pounds at my weigh-in this morning; this has taken entirely too long, and I still have quite a ways to go, but it felt like some sort of major accomplishment, so: yay!

If the weather stops being so miserable this week, I need to take my car in for an inspection. That just about sums up how much adulting I’m willing to manage these next seven days. I am, indeed, stowin’ away the time, it appears.

Weekly status update [0056/????]

The weather’s been pretty nasty here this week. So I guess it’s a good thing I almost never leave the house?

  • My heating system completely failed sometime Sunday night. It took until Wednesday for it to get fixed; it was just a blown fuse. Fortunately my landlord loaned me some space heaters in the interim.
  • Played lots of videogames. Along with finishing Horizon: Zero Dawn, I’ve also made my way through Batman: The Telltale Series, which was quite good, and started on their Game of Thrones title. Plus there’s the most-nights EDF4.1 pew pews, and Overcooked! 2 on Thursday.
  • So far so consistent with Tabletop Simulator on Thursdays as well; we played Aeon’s End again this week. And Friday night was a “shorter games” game night at a friend and old coworker’s house; we played a bunch of different things. The highlight was an extremely tense game of Tempel des Schreckens where I had to do some of the most creative, wheeler-dealer lying I’ve ever had to do in a social deduction game. I also bounced hard off of Deja Vu, bailing on the game after a single round.
  • I’ve been slowly reading Sarah Rees Brennan’s first “Lynburn Legacy” book, Unspoken. It’s… fine, but definitely not the lightning in a bottle that In Other Lands managed to capture. I also read Auggie & Me, a collection of three short stories that paint in some gaps in the narrative of Wonder. Inessential but quite readable.
  • The third season of The Expanse was excellent through and through, and I am delighted to see that it’s been picked up by Amazon Prime for at least one more season. The only other thing I’ve been watching is keeping up with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which feels just as good after the network switch as it did before.
  • I actually did some puzzles for the first time in a while. I’m almost done with Penpa Mix 2019, having done all of several types of puzzles in the book. I suspect when it’s all said and done the slim volume will have taken me somewhere around 30 hours to complete (but I plan on doing the math to see one way or the other).
  • You know that annoying thing where you know you’re eating properly for, like, a week plus, but the scale refuses to budge even though there’s mathematically no way you shouldn’t weigh less given caloric intake? Yeah. That’s been this week for me. Fortunately I resisted the siren call of “screw this, buy some Biscoff cookie butter at Walmart” that rang in my head most days when I saw the numbers. We’ll see how much longer I can resist.

I’m going to try and finish that first Lynburn book today, even though I find myself putting it down for just about any reason I can devise. Then I think I’ll finally read Guns, Germs, and Steel, a book that has been “things Phil is interested in”-adjacent for too many years to still leave unread.