Insert metatextual reference about inserting a Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure reference here here.
Having finished off all of the core content in Borderlands last week, I set about getting the Platinum trophy, because I hate myself. Of course it has That One Trophy; in this case it’s actually not a hard one to get–you simply have to reach level 50–so much as it a tedious one. I had to play through about two-thirds of the game all over again on the second, more-challenging playthrough to get up to that level. Ugh. I was honestly quite surprised, looking at trophy counts, that it was far from the most rare trophy; I guess people like grinding through the same game multiple times? Anyway: done and dusted and trophies are still the worst.
No more Borderlands most nights means my time has been spent elsewhere. I’ve been doing my best to transfer it to books, because I’m in danger of having another “bring a bunch of unread titles back to the library because I can’t catch up” moment, but the awful McDevitt books were slowing me down there for a while. Thankfully I powered through them and am now most of the way through Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, a fantasy novel I bounced hard off once before but decided to give another shot. And I’m glad I did, because it’s actually quite excellent. I’ll be finishing that up today and moving on to the second and third books in the trilogy post-haste. The book I read in between, Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan, was also quite good.
The ugh-factor of Starhawk and The Last Sunset prompted me to write a piece about long-running series earlier this week, which in retrospect comes off mostly as an “old man yells at cloud” bit. Not that I disagree with anything I said there, but, y’know, still.
Quite a bit of dominion.games scattered throughout the week, along with Real Actual In-Person Gaming on Sunday night, thanks to Chris and Jenna inviting me over for dinner and tabletopping. (Shut up, Chrome spell-checker, that’s totally a word.) I’ve had BattleCON: War of Indines on my brain for weeks now; I honestly think it’s my favorite 2p game of all time, and wanted to show it off. Jenna seemed to enjoy it, even though it is quite overwhelming the first few times you play. We also really enjoyed a couple of games of Roll to the Top, a super-easy roll-and-write game with just enough strategic oomph to be worth playing. A game of Hanabi didn’t go great, Race for the Galaxy was interesting and challenging as always, and there was an absolutely bonkers game of Dominion where I almost cracked 100VP in a non-artificial setting and without Colonies and Platinum. Woof. Great game night all around: excellent food, company, and experiences.
I finished watching Origin on YouTube Premium, which was solid but not amazing, and started rewatching Deadwood in anticipation of the movie this evening. I’m nowhere near done with that rewatch, but I’m also not in the biggest hurry either. My original watch was very binge-y, and sipping at it slowly over the next couple of weeks will–I hope–make the movie that much sweeter to watch.
After being a GoodBoye on my diet for several weeks I fell off the wagon hard for a couple of days… but have managed to right myself and am back on track (and actually better off than before) already. I’m still not down to where I was immediately before those gall bladder attacks, but I should be getting there soonish. I hope.
It’s ugly wind and rain here today, which seems like a perfect excuse to curl back up with a book. And so I shall!
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.
Sorry, folks, but I’m just not feeling up to writing something up this week. Some combination of my allergies and my recovery means I’ve been very low energy for days now, and I have my follow-up appointment tomorrow morning so I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour. (Honestly, the real challenge will be to go to bed late enough to make sure I don’t wake up at 5am.)
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.
A short one today: it’s definitely gallstones. I’m going to have surgery on the 18th, or 22nd, or 8th–it’s unclear at the moment, thanks to shifting it around in an attempt to ensure someone’s actually available to drive me there and back on the day–but surgery it is. I’m hoping that the 8th works out, since that means I might still be able to fit in a trip back home before the full suck of summer arrives… but getting this done is more important than leisure visits back to Louisiana.