Week of 27 July, 2020

  • I barely remember what I did this week. Whenever I wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping, I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked on the 3DS. The last game to hook me like this was Fire Emblem: Awakening, also on the 3DS. There’s something about RPGs on handheld devices that makes me want to pour my entire life into them. Maybe it’s because the experience is similar to reading a book — a book where you can choose your own outcomes and fall in love with the characters over a period of weeks rather than days.
  • It’s becoming clear to me that the only games I care about enough to see through to the end are story-driven RPGs, especially turn-based JRPGs. After I’m done with SMT, I’m planning to play through all the other RPGs I own until SMT V comes out next year: Yo-Kai Watch 2 (3DS), Dragon Quest 8 (3DS), Final Fantasy VII (Switch), Disgaea 4 (Switch) and Child of Light (Switch). I only have the time to play through one or two games each year so I doubt I’ll be able to finish all of these, but that won’t stop me from trying!
  • Mentally, I’ve been all over the place. I don’t feel anxious anymore, thanks to the medication, therapy, and exercise. However, the SSRIs still make me drowsy enough that some days I barely want to move from my couch. My doctor has asked me to try taking the medication at night, but it’s too early to tell if it’s making a difference.
  • I have now been writing in my Bullet Journal for a whole month. I’ve filled over sixty pages with tasks, notes, events, observations, and way too many lists. Looking back at what I’ve written, I’ve found that my perception of time is hilariously skewed. Things I could have sworn happened two or three months ago actually only happened two weeks ago. Conversely, things that happened at the start of the month feel like they happened just yesterday.
  • Incidentally, I only realized today that August has thirty-one days and not thirty, so I guess I need to be sent right back to Kindergarten.
  • For someone with a brain like mine, social media is a bigger health hazard than cigarettes or alcohol. I owe a large part of my professional success to being Very Online™, but I’m at a point where the negative effects it has on my mental health are far too nasty to ignore. I still check my social media a few times a week, but I rarely read anything outside of my replies or DMs, and most of my posts are jokes or pictures of my cats. Most of all, I immediately unfollow anyone who shares political posts, even if they’re a close friend.
  • I’m now part of a book club! We discussed Blake Crouch’s Recursion last week, and next up is Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s Hugo-winning This is How You Lose the Time War. I’m having a lot of fun.
  • You know what else is fun? Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure. It might not be as intense as working out at a gym, but it’s more than enough to get me sweating. I’m starting to feel healthy again after months of not moving my body.

The Interviews and Short Fiction of Tamsyn Muir

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is not only my favorite book of 2020 so far, it has also become one of my favorite books ever. Since Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to Gideon, is coming out this month, I’ve been trawling the Web for news, interviews, AMAs, and anything else I can find about the author. Here’s a handy list.

Interviews

Short Fiction

Week of 13 July, 2020

  • This week was a rollercoaster. Side effects from my anxiety medication either left me feeling too drowsy or too wired. These swings became markedly less pronounced over the weekend, so I suppose things will get better as my body gets used to all the new chemicals.
  • The good news is that the medication is working! I haven’t felt this calm, stable, and clear-headed in years. That’s not to say my anxiety is “cured”. It’s still there, only duller now. I’ll only truly be able to manage it with good diet, exercise, meditation, and therapy. It’s a long road ahead.
  • Talking of exercise: I bought myself a Ring Fit Adventure to keep myself moving through these quarantimes. The first time I played it, I underestimated how intense it would be and did forty squats without realizing it. I then spent the next hour panting on the couch. The game is super addictive, which makes it easy to overdo. However, with the intensity set to a level my body can handle, I’ve really started looking forward to my workout sessions.
  • Since my brain is not on fire anymore, I can read fiction again. I read Stephen King’s Bag of Bones over the week, and started working my way through Blake Crouch’s Recursion over the weekend. It’s been a little over a year since I’ve read fiction written by a man, and reading these two books back-to-back makes me feel a little guilty about breaking my streak. But both these stories are just so much fun that I’ll let it slide. Just this once.
  • I’ve decided to stay away from politics and the news cycle for a while, until I can figure out how to engage with them without affecting my mental health. I’ve cut down on the accounts I follow on Twitter, and even started spending less time on tech forums. There’s a lot of negativity in online discussions, and it rubs off on me at a subconscious level. I’m tired of feeling angry and wound-up all the time, so I’m checking out for the moment.
  • My Twitter is now 50% cat pictures and 50% shitposting.

Week of 29 June, 2020

  • My anxiety has been making it incredibly hard for me to function normally. In the past few weeks I’ve either been a giant ball of nerves, or walking around like a zombie because of mental exhaustion.
  • It has been impossible for me to maintain focus for long enough to type coherent sentences, which is why I’ve skipped writing weeknotes for the last two weeks.
  • The good news is that I’m finally speaking to a therapist!
  • Yay!
  • On the recommendation of my therapist, I’m also speaking to a psychiatrist. They’ve put me on an SSRI for a few months. Turns out I’ve had Generalized Anxiety Disorder for pretty much my whole life, which explains a lot of things.
  • To keep better track of my moods and medication, I’ve started keeping a Bullet Journal. I’d already been using a method that was pretty close to what BuJo prescribes, but BuJo gives my notes a little more structure.
  • As my anxiety has worsened, my ability to read fiction has deteriorated. I can understand the stories just fine, but I’ve completely lost the ability to visualize things in my head. I need to take my mind’s eye to an optometrist. I’m hoping things will improve as the SSRI and therapy start to work their magic. In the meantime, I’m welcoming suggestions for non-fiction books that (a) are comforting, and (b) can be parsed and understood by this drug addled brain of mine.
  • I’m staying away from everything political for the moment. I hope one day I can be politically engaged without damaging my mental health, but for now I need to take care of myself.
  • I’ve bought myself an adult coloring book. While it doesn’t help me feel more relaxed, it does keep the anxiety spirals in check. Whenever I’m feeling agitated, I can go and color for a while until I calm down. It also keeps me away from screens, which is always a win in my book.
  • SAWAYAMA is a 10/10 album. It’s currently tied with how i’m feeling now as my second favorite album of the year, with the top spot taken by RTJ4.

Week of 8 June, 2020

  • I didn’t post a weeknote last Sunday. For the last two weeks, my mental health has been at its lowest point in almost a decade. I’m better today, but some days it gets so bad that I can barely move.
  • On my worst day, when I was walking around the house in a kind of brain fog, I couldn’t even understand the dialog in one of my favorite TV shows.
  • The good news is that I’m finally speaking to a therapist. Yay?
  • Needless to say that I haven’t been cooking very much, but I did manage to make a great paneer butter masala on one of those rare days when I felt a bit like myself. Cooking continues to be a source of joy, an unlikely outlet for creative energies, and a way to connect with my friends.
  • I’m taking a break from the Earthsea books — not because I dislike them, but because I want to step out of that world for a little while. I’ve started reading Gideon the Ninth, which is sheer insanity. In a good way. I expect to write a lot more about this book in the future.
  • I discovered a game called Children of Morta through a Steam sale. It’s quite similar to Diablo 2 in terms of gameplay. Since my brain refuses to think straight anymore, this has been a good way for me to forget about the world while mindlessly slashing through skeletons, spiders, goblins, and unnameable blobs.
  • I’ve found that if I really want to have fun, I should really only be playing one game at a time. There just isn’t enough time in the day. So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to move on from Children of Morta until I finish it or get bored.
  • RTJ4 dropped, and it’s as flawless and magnificent and sublime as I imagined it would be. Please go listen to it. Now.

Catch-22

“You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Week of 25 May, 2020

  • America is burning. India has been burning for months. Unable to contribute much to what’s going on, I’m educating myself. The only thing I really know how to do is read and write, so I’m reading. Maybe one day I will write.
  • I cooked a giant pot of creamy, buttery dal bukhara and I’m unreasonably proud of this achievement. I’d make a great house-husband.
  • Darkest Dungeon was free for the weekend, so I’ve spent the last two days gleefully getting my ass kicked by eldritch horrors. I’ve been wanting to play this game for months, and I’m happy to report that it lives up to the hype.
  • Tehanu is incredible. You can tell within the first few pages that Le Guin was an entirely different person by the time she got around to writing it.
  • Work has been frustrating. I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to build a thing that should be straightforward, but isn’t. It’s been making me not want to even look at my IDE. I’m close to a solution now, so hopefully this period of reduced productiveness will only last a few more days.
  • Charli still on repeat.

Week of 18 May, 2020

  • I found the first Earthsea book to be dry and stilted, but Le Guin’s world and its inhabitants are getting more complex, more diverse, and more human as the series goes on. I finished The Tombs of Atuan and got halfway through The Farthest Shore this week, and I can’t wait to start Tehanu. I can already anticipate the emptiness I’ll feel when I finish all the books in the series, when I’ll be forced to say goodbye to Ged, Tenar, and all the other denizens of Earthsea.
  • Champaca has started delivering books across the country, so I got myself all three books from N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. I now have my eyes on Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series and Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past series. This is going to be a good year for reading SFF.
  • Charli is still on repeat. Anthems should be the official anthem of the quarantimes.
  • For the last few weeks I’ve been working with a client who wants to create tooling for developers building machine learning models. Every time I step back to look at the work I’m doing I feel immensely proud of what I’ve accomplished, and there’s no greater joy in the world than that. In the middle of this pandemic I at least have my work to keep me grounded and contented. I’m immensely grateful for this.
  • From 2009 to 2011 I ran a personal blog not too different from this one. It was served from a cheap shared hosting box, which I lost because reasons. I thought it was gone for good until I looked for it on the Wayback Machine and found that it had been backed up there in its entirety. I spent a large part of the week migrating posts from the backup to this current blog, which means my archives now extend back to 2009. That’s more than a decade of blog posts! You can read a particulary juicy one that went viral here, and you can see the whole archive here.
  • I fired up Factorio over the weekend because I was bored. After four hours of messing around with belts, I’m ready to pour my entire life into this game. I’d forgotten the sense of wonder and discovery that I got from city building and simulation games when I was a kid. Console gaming is fun, but you can’t control a game like Caesar, Rollercoaster Tycoon, or Constructor without a mouse and keyboard. I’m now tempted to build a PC so I can play modern incarnations of these games. Somebody stop me.

PS: as an experiment, I’m allowing comments on all my new posts. I’ll disable them if it turns into too much work, but I’m willing to try this out for a little bit. Be kind.