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 , and still doesn’t work perfectly because , 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I finished up Russian Doll on Netflix, which was absolutely fantastic and should be watched by everyone reading this. Yes, even you. I also started on season three of The Expanse now that it’s free on Amazon Prime and have been enjoying it quite a bit.
As rambled about at length earlier this week, I finished up the last of the Ezio Trilogy games this weekend and am not touching another Assassin’s Creed game until the remaster of III comes out in March. I’m not really looking forward to it–III is not a very good game–but I’ve already decided that I’m not going to be platinuming it, so the experience will at least be mostly casual rather than the completionist torture that the last few ended up being.
Most evenings have continued to be filled with playing Earth Defense Force 4.1 online with friends, which is actually a quite pleasant way to fill the time. I’ve even started streaming it on occasion, and several people have tuned in that aren’t personal friends. Exciting!
Time spent not on the television has mostly been devoted to reading. I finished up The Prestige, which was fantastic, then moved on to Wonder, which was a nice light read. Then I read In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, which was so good. Like, seriously. So good. It’s a LGBT coming-of-age portal fantasy novel that’s way, way more than the sum of its parts, and I liked it so much that I did something I don’t know that I’ve ever done before: I read it twice. (I did read another book in the middle, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon, which sadly was neither part of his Mars trilogy universe nor particularly memorable.) I mean, I’ve re-read books plenty of times in my life; Greg Egan’s Quarantine is basically falling apart due to how many times I’ve read my copy. But twice in the span of three days? Never that I know of. So good.
There were mysterious clanky noises coming from the heat pump outside. It took a long time (too long) for my landlord to get someone out to check it, and by that point it was no longer making mysterious clanky noises. We shall have to see if it starts up again. I hate this particular song and dance.
Despite the fact that it was Valentine’s Day, I still managed to play a bit of Tabletop Simulator with a friend Thursday night. Won at Dominion, lost at Lost Cities.