Squam, 2021

As I mentioned in an earlier post (and you might have surmised by the flurry of posts), I’m on my annual sojourn to Squam. It’s a time to see family, decompress, swim, and take stock of things. I look forward to it every year, and always make time for it, even if it means not doing as much other travel as I’d like. I like to sit on the porch and look out at the lake, and listen to gentle waves against the shore and the wind in the trees. It’s nice to catch up with people, too – I may not always be as directly participatory, but my ears are open and it’s nice to pick up what others are doing. It’s a particular feeling that brings some level of contentment and unencumbered activity.

Squam Lake looking across the lake towards East and West Rattlesnake mountains.

When I think about the sort of house or place I’d like to live in, this feeling is what I think of. It’s not necessarily about the specifics – I don’t need to be on a lake, nor does it need to be as large a house. But the feeling of peace and connection with the world around me, the calm, the sense of privacy, the room to take action or to relax as I see fit, and feeling enabled to do either.

That’s what I want from my home. Though the idea of having my own home (not just a house, but a home) feels distant lately. Housing prices keep climbing across the board, let alone in the sort of properties that would give me what I want. Even a few years ago, I was grappling with the sticker shock of finding something suitable around Portland, but now that sticker shock has extended to pretty much anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. This is something I’ve been thinking about, waffling between tabling it for now, or acting soon while interest rates are low and before prices rise even further. I’m also thinking about picking a few other towns that might be interesting, and renting an Airbnb or similar short term rental for a month, to see what places might be appealing. What do y’all think? Any towns I should check out? (They don’t have to be in the US, either, though that is extra hurdles, since I want to bring my dog.)

What I’ve Been Up to Lately

My first inclination is to brush off this question, but that’s my depression and general desire to not draw attention to myself talking, and I’ve been trying not to listen to what they’re saying as much. Which brings me to the first thing: therapy! I’ve been seeing a therapist for about two years now. Sometimes it feels more productive, sometimes less, but I do still think it’s a useful thing. I’ve also started working with a new prescriber, who suggested getting a genetic test done to see which medications might work well for me. (This is pretty neat, but isn’t always covered by insurers unless you’ve already tried several.) I got the results back and thought it was pretty informative, and gives me some new options to explore. We’ll be discussing it once I’m back from my vacation, so we’ll see where things go from there.

Work has been going well (better than over the winter and early spring). I’ve been working on a project that’s been sort of a side project for the last year and a half, wrangling a documentation conversion from one format to another. This scratched a lot of itches for me, writing conversion scripts, working with handlebars, html, and css, writing plugins for the new system, et cetera. I’m happiest when I’ve got new things to learn and chew on, and having different irons in the fire. (One of the things that had been making work feel like a slog before was that due to a release with a shorter than usual turnaround, I had to be focusing on just the release work.) It’s also been nice to think at a higher level about information infrastructure.

Cecil continues to be a very good boy. We go for walks every morning, where he has his regular crew of buddies to play with. He’s two now, and has gotten mostly used to the work routine – there are still times where he’d rather be a lap dog, but he’s gotten better about letting me work (as long as it’s somewhere he can lounge nearby).

What I’ve Been Playing

A few of us picked up Valheim this spring, and spent a few weeks playing that on a server together. It’s pretty fun, though it can be a bit punishing when you’re first getting started in a new biome. Once we got to the plains, we all sort of wandered off, but Schwern archived the server, so we can pick things back up again later once the next biome (and other updates) are released. I will say, the game is significantly better with friends, in particular if you like different aspects of the game, so you can divvy up tasks.

Another game that I started playing but am currently waiting for further patches and updates is Cyberpunk 2077. What I’ve played I’ve enjoyed (I picked it up on PC, and it runs reasonably well on my system after tuning some game settings), so I do plan to go back to it, just not sure when. (Which can be said of an unfortunately long list of games 😅.) I’ve also been casually dipping my toes in Genshin Impact.

The game that continues to capture my attention and time, 8 years later, is Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve always been a Final Fantasy fan, and I’ve always been attracted to virtual worlds and MMOs, so I suppose that comes as no surprise. I’m a bit of a casual player, as I tend to focus on the story, lore, and exploration, and have historically been abysmally bad at keeping a regular playing schedule, but I still find myself having fun and enjoying the game. I’m primarily part of a free company on the Cactuar server (where I help admin and maintain their discord bots), but also have a few other groups related to the game that I’m part of (free companies on other servers, as I’ve got multiple characters scattered around and try to keep at least one character on each data center up to date, story-wise, plus a real life group for players from the PNW). I’d definitely recommend it, if that style of game is remotely interesting to you (if you want to give it a shot, let me know! They offer bonuses for recruiting friends, for both the recruiter and the recruited, so there’s some incentive aside from playing together. And their free trial has literally become a meme). Honestly, I should just make a separate post about it.

In other gaming news, I’m cautiously hyped for the Steam Deck. It shows a lot of promise, and scratches some very specific itches for me, though I’m a bit nervous about the battery life becoming an issue. We’ll see. I’ve tossed in my $5 to reserve my spot in line for one, and we’ll go from there.

Other Media

I have a few Youtube channels I follow along with, like vlogbrothers, and Ze Frank, but otherwise I tend to bounce around a lot for videos. Same with streaming. I enjoyed Demon Slayer, and Loki, and Bo Burnham’s Inside, but overall haven’t been watching much.

Let me touch on Inside for a second: it’s listed as a stand-up comedy special on Netflix, but that’s a bit misleading. Bo is a comedian and performer, and there’s certainly funny bits, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as something to just throw on for some laughs. It’s written, performed, edited, and filmed by Bo, stuck in his apartment, over the course of the pandemic. There’s a lot going on in it, and it can feel challenging at times. It’s also really fucking good. Do watch it.

I’ve also been getting back to reading. Actual books! On paper! It’s honestly felt refreshing, though it’s also taken a little brain rewiring after spending (too much) time on the internet. I read through Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, and enjoyed it. She has an approach and view on magic that I appreciate. It follows an internal consistency, and feels thought out in a way that suggests either experience, or at the very least meticulous research. I don’t want to dive too deeply into the plot of the book, since it’s a bit of a mystery (and I’m notoriously bad at accidentally giving away spoilers), but if you dig some good reality bending, I’d say it’s worth a read.

I’ve also been slowly working through John Green’s collection of essays, The Anthropocene Reviewed (which I quoted yesterday). That’s also been good stuff. It’s at times amusing, other times deeply personal, and I find myself in alignment with him on a lot of feelings. None of the essays are very long, each one discussing some aspect of the modern world, ranging from sunsets to academic decathalons to canadian geese. The nicely compartmentalized nature of each essay has made it a nice option to read before bed, though I think that’s also caused the reading of it to become more paced out over time. (And for those keeping track, yes, this is the same John Green whose videos I’ve linked to before.)

Personal Projects

I’ve also been making (some) headway on some projects. As I mentioned at the start of the week, I’d been meaning to move off Google Analytics for this blog, and managed to get that accomplished. I’ve been blogging daily for the past week, which is also something I’d been wanting to get back to. I set up symbolic.space to animate the interrobang I have there so it breathes (mostly for giggles). I’ve had a report that the symbol doesn’t show up on Android phones, which thus far I’ve managed to track down to the default Android font not having the dang glyph, but I’ve not yet fixed this properly (I took a quick stab at a fix, but it didn’t seem to work for the original reporter, and I haven’t made a second attempt yet).

I’ve also been working a little bit on a Discord bot. My first attempts were using Discord.js, but I’ve been looking into switching to other options (nothing wrong with Discord.js, just exploring options, in particular since there hasn’t been an updated stable release since slash commands and threads came in). I was hoping to spend some more time on this while I’ve been on vacation, but I’ve been occupied with other things.

Another partially completed project is creating an AsciiDoc syntax extension for Nova. If I really wanted to be fancy, I’d try and get some sort of previewing capability working, but considering I’ve never written a language extension before, I figured syntax highlighting would be a solid place to start. It’s been mostly going well so far, modeling most of the regex for highlighting from the VS Code plugin (with some adjustments due to some differences in regex flavors and config formats between the two programs). Just a matter of putting in the time to get it wrapped up. I will definitely post something here when I have something to share on this front.

That’s probably enough rambling for now, as this is getting kind of long. The summary basically boils down to “in a semi-productive phase right now, and life is feeling somewhere between limbo and ‘in progress’.” Which isn’t so bad, in the grand scheme of things.