Weekly Update: August 13, 2019

Rock climbing, Cape Cod, the Edward Gorey House, and plans for vacation in Bath…

What an amazing weekend, and week, I have had! I crossed two more things off my 101 Goals in 1,001 Days List, and had a blast doing it.

Rock-climbing, part deux

You may recall that roughly two years ago, I tried (indoor) rock-climbing for the first time. I liked it enough that I decided I needed to do it again sometime, and put it on my 101 goals list… and then promptly developed cubital tunnel syndrome in my hand.

But my hand has been all cleared up for months now, so I was out of excuses! This time, as before, I went to Brooklyn Boulders Somerville with my friend Jess, who once again belayed me. Also like last time, I had similar anticipatory anxiety, mostly around “will this be uncomfortable?”

But it went much better than last time! I feel like my running has helped build strength in my legs and cardiovascular endurance. I tried two different routes across three separate tries, and got to the top twice! Both routes were 5.5, and one was a slab wall (angled so that gravity works with you), but I say this only to point out that I am a raw beginner, and not to diminish the achievement at all.

When I got to the top of the wall, and touched both hands to the top hold, it was such a rush. I felt like a GOD among MEN. I stayed up far later than I should have thinking about all the awesome things I could now accomplish, now that I conquered those walls.

BKBS continues to be a great, positive place to climb, and makes me sad that it’s nowhere close to where I live. I did, however, discover there is a new(ish) MetroRock near me in Littleton, MA — it definitely was not open when I checked two years ago! — and that I can take their Intro to Climbing class on their “Ladies’ Night” for $30, which includes all equipment and a 10 day membership pass. This would allow me to get belay certified, and hopefully climb with Jess more equitably when she recovers from her injury!

After climbing we had dinner at ONE, a ramen and sushi restaurant on Mass Ave, and she showed me her souvenirs from her recent trip to Japan. It was later than I anticipated before I got on the road.

I was not going home, however! Like I was some kind of social butterfly or something, I was actually going to my friend Alison’s house in preparation for our next adventure. (Seriously, I feel like “go from one friend’s gathering to another without going home” is some kind of extrovert merit badge).

Cape Cod with Alison

Alison and I had planned to take the fast ferry on Saturday from Plymouth to Provincetown. This… did not so much happen.

See, she booked our tickets through TripAdvisor, but when we got to the pier, Captain John’s, which runs the boat, had no record of us. The boat was full, too, so there was no way we could board. Later — two hours after the boat left! — she got a “we’re sorry, but we have no availability for that date” email. What the hell, TripAdvisor? (I guess take this as a warning to book through Captain John’s directly).

So, we decided to drive instead.

Ptown, as it is often called, is at the very tip of Cape Cod, and in the summer the drive can be grueling, just due to holiday traffic. Alison lives close to the Bourne Bridge, the main route onto the Cape, but even so it would have been two hours to get to Ptown. But as it happens, we decided to make some stops along the way!

The Edward Gorey House

The first place we stopped was 8 Strawberry Lane in Yarmouth Port, better known as the “Elephant House,” where artist and writer Edward Gorey spent the last fifteen years of his life. This is an Atlas Obscura site, and one I’ve wanted to visit since we read The Unstrung Harp at Viable Paradise in 2013. (I also highly recommend the episode of Stuff You Missed in History Class about Gorey).

What a fantastic, magical place it was — truly, a place that reflected the spirit of an eccentric genius. Some images that stick with me:

  • the supports on the mantelpieces of his fireplaces, shaped like bats, in recognition of his production of Dracula.
  • The framed “last waffle of the millenium,” from Jack’s Outback, the restaurant where he ate breakfast and lunch for nearly every meal.
  • The odd collections, of everything from tassels to glass balls.
  • How he spent his young adult years loping around Harvard, then NYC, in fur coats and jeans, but when he realized how unethical fur was, he stopped wearing it. (He then put in his will that his coats would be auctioned off after his death, and the proceeds given to animal welfare charities).
  • His orders to let a family of raccoons keep living in his attic while the roof was replaced.
  • The dishes for his six cats.
  • A bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin that he had hand-labeled. Nearby, a bottle of lye, labeled in the same way.

But more than anything, I will remember the section of crumbling plaster in the front room, which he specifically instructed his contractors not to restore. Why? Because he liked things that showed their age.

I left with a few of his books — The Doubtful Visitor, one of his “nonsense” works, in which a small penguin-like creature in gym shoes terrorizes a family for seventeen years, and The Curious Sofa, a “pornographic” work, which is all overwrought innuendo, with an incredibly surreal ending.

But mostly I left with the desire to have my home reflect my “brand” as much as Gorey’s reflected his own.

Doane Rock

Next stop was in Eastham, at Doane Rock, the largest glacial erratic on Cape Cod. Because it’s not an adventure if I don’t see a big rock!

Not much to say about this, but enjoy a couple of pictures — one mine, one Alison’s.

Truro Vineyards

Next we proceeded to North Truro, home of Truro Vineyards, which is known for its wines in lighthouse-shaped bottles.

We shared a wine tasting, where we sampled two of their whites, two of their rosés, four of their reds, and their two wine cooler-ish beverages. Obviously, because we are classy dames, we enjoyed the wine coolers the best. I actually had to finish most of Alison’s samples of the reds, because she was very much not a fan.

(I did think their 2018 Zinfandel had some really interesting peppery notes! See, I’m not a total degenerate!)

Afterward, we took some pictures, and had lunch at the food trucks on the lawn. I spilled most of our wine slushie, which was probably a good thing, because I was already pretty tipsy. I didn’t end up buying anything there, which I kind of regret — I’d love one of those lighthouse bottles, but I also don’t need more encouragement to drink.

Race Point Beach

One of my reasons for this trip was to go to an ocean beach — another of my 101 goals. Obviously I can go swimming in lakes any time I like, but oceans require a bit more planning.

There are two main beaches close to Ptown — Herring Cove, and Race Point. Herring Cove is on the inside of the curling tip of the Cape, and is supposed to be a lot warmer and a lot less wild. But that also means it’s much more family friendly, and we expected it would be crammed full of people on this perfect summer day.

So instead we hit Race Point, which is about 2 miles outside of Provincetown, on the very tip of the peninsula. It’s in the midst of those “dunes on the Cape” that the Pina Colada Song warned me about! It’s absolutely gorgeous scenery, so unearthly and unlike the rest of Massachusetts.

When we arrived, it was about 4pm, and the park rangers told us that if we wanted to wait a half hour, we could get in for free. However, we did not really want to wait, so we paid the day fee ($20) and parked. (Noted for the future, though!)

The first thing to know about Race Point: boy, does it have an undertow. Not surprising, really, considering we’re on a narrow spit of land sticking far out into the Atlantic. I admittedly don’t have a ton of experience with ocean beaches, but it is definitely stronger than any other I’ve experienced. It was unreal watching the force with which the ocean sucked back from the sand.

The saving grace was that the waves seemed to be exerting as much force in the opposite direction: the undertow would pull you out a little, and make it difficult to stand, but then the waves would push you right back.

Mostly, I spent my time there rolling around in the surf like some kind of seal. While this was delightfully fun, it did not help the bruises all over my legs from climbing, and I ended up with sand EVERYWHERE.

Alison mostly took pictures; I laid on the beach for a bit and watched clouds roll in. Eventually a strong wind blew in, and we decided to leave.

Provincetown

Finally, late in the afternoon, we reached Provincetown! We had no set plans here, really, so mostly we poked our heads in art galleries and shops. I bought a t-shirt with a sloth that said “LIVE SLOW”; Alison hit Monty’s, a Christmas store.

Our “dinner” was really dessert — an ice cream sundae at Lewis’ for me, and some donuts at The Donut Experiment for Alison. I held on to Alison’s iced tea as she went into Shop Therapy, which meant that she missed the Liberace impersonator passing by in a car, promoting a drag show that night. I didn’t get a picture, so possibly it was just a figment of my imagination — but nah, that’s peak Ptown.

We headed home shortly thereafter — an hour and a half back to Plymouth, and then another hour and a half back home for me.

England plans coming together

Matt and I will be attending Mythic Consequences in November, much as we usually do. Hopefully this year we won’t get a nasty stomach bug!

Our plan this year is to do most of our tourism after the convention. On the Monday after, we’ll be heading back to London to go with a group of larpers to see the Tutankhamen exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery — the last time the sarcophagus will be on display for who knows how long.

We’ll spend the night somewhere in London, and then take a train to Bath on Tuesday. I booked an AirBnB at the heart of the city for a very reasonable $97/night, from whence we’re excited to see the Fashion Museum, the Jane Austen Centre, and the Roman baths, and SO MUCH MORE. Seriously, I’m super pumped for everything there is to do there, and how central it all is. There will be bespoke gin tastings and spa sessions and odd Atlas Obscura sites and walking the Skyline trail and and and…

I usually don’t plan these things too much, but I might have to lay down a simple schedule if I want to fit in everything we want to do!

We spend five days in Bath, and then we head back to London and then home. The nice thing about coming in from Bath is we’ll arrive at Paddington station, which connects directly to Heathrow via the Heathrow Express. No messing around with RailLink buses!

On that note…

I’ll be heading off on my summer vacation (Stratford Festival + camping) for ten days starting tomorrow. That means no posts next week, and I’ll be fairly incommunicado during that time. See you when I return!

Weekly Update: August 6, 2019

Where has the summer gone? I can hardly believe it’s already August. So let’s see what I’ve been doing in the past week…

Yet another beer festival

Matt and I went to the Johnny Appleseed Craft Beer Festival this past Saturday, on the Leominster, MA common. Yes, this is the second beer fest I’ve been to in the past month. It’s been a very boozy month for us, I guess!

This one was built on a bit of a different model than the Fitchburg festival. It was $30 (advance) or $35 (at the door) to get in, but once you were in, all samples were included in the cost. Like the Nashua River festival, they gave you a commemorative sample glass — I’m going to be drowning in these if I keep going to beer festivals. Unlike the Fitchburg festival, they actually gave you a sample size, at least at first. (As the event went on, the pours kept getting bigger and bigger, as if some of the brewers were saying “fuck it, I don’t want to have to carry all this beer home”).

The breweries present varied quite a bit from the last event, and included a lot of bigger breweries. (Samuel Adams, for example, as well as Harpoon and Magic Hat). That said, the total number of brewers seemed higher, so there were still a good number of small places represented. I also saw some overlap with the Fitchburg festival, such as New City, Wachusett, and Carlson Orchards.

I also was surprised — when I arrived a little after the opening time of 3pm — that there was a line around the block to get in, even for folks who had purchased ahead of time (like us). Understandable, because they needed to check everyone’s ID. It did move relatively fast, notwithstanding my impatience 🙂

Here are some of the hits of the festival for us:

  • Wicked Weed Brewing from Asheville, NC had two session sours we liked, Watermelon Dragonfruit Burst and a Passionfruit Lychee Burst. Matt felt the watermelon was a little too “Jolly Ranchers”-y for his taste, though.
  • Golden Road Brewing out of Los Angeles had a “cart” series of flavored wheat ales. We sampled Melon Cart and Mango Cart, and decided Melon was the better of the two, with a pleasant melon flavor to it. The mango flavor sadly did not come through nearly as well.
  • The Mass Bev stall was pouring a selection from Rising Tide Brewery (Portland, ME), including a gose called Pisces that I quite liked.
  • Four Phantoms (Easthampton, MA) was pouring Baroness, what they described as a “brut saison.” It drank very much like a sour — not all that surprising, the brewer told us, since saisons are also traditionally made with wild yeast. This was probably Matt’s favorite of the whole festival.
  • Rhinegeist, out of Cincinnati, had an unusual selection of ciders and beers, which we sampled all of. I seem to recall the cider was Swizzle, a lemongrass and ginger cider; for beers, there was Nitro Cobbstopper (a peach cobbler ale), and a fruity IPA which I absolute cannot recall — it might have had pineapple? They were all enjoyable.
  • Groennfell Meadery (Colchester, VT) was, understandably, a hit with me! I sampled them all; they were all slightly drier than I was used to, but still very easy-drinking. My favorite was a sour cherry mead, Psychopomp, which was actually from the (related) Havoc Meads — and they even have the recipe for it on the Groennfell webpage!
    (Actually, the website has a ton of mead-making resources… there was a long gap in writing this while I explored their site).
  • Carlson Orchards (Harvard, MA) was pouring their own hard cider as well as their Shandy Stand, which was scrumptiously lemon-y. I may need to get some of that when I go there for peach picking in September.
  • 3cross Fermentation Coop (soon to be in Worcester, MA) offered Mumbaicycle, a chai-based stout, which was pretty good even though I don’t much like stouts.
  • Bantam Cider (Somerville, MA) had some excellent ciders, included a hopped cider (it might have been Mighty Mammoth?) that worked out really well.
  • Clown Shoes (Boston, MA) had their Coconut Sombrero, which is best described as a “non-sweet Almond Joy flavor in a stout.”
  • At Newburyport Brewing‘s stall (Newburyport, MA), we tried the Maritime Lager and Plum Island Belgian White. Pretty bog standard varieties, no flavorings, but they both stood out for the amount of nutty malt flavor that came through.

Of course after that excursion in the land of all-inclusive booze, we were a biiiiit tipsy. It was also nearly dinner time, and we were in downtown Leominster, so the logical choice was to hit up Mezcal for dinner! No margaritas were had, though 😉

Wachusett Mountain

On Sunday morning, Matt and I hiked Wachusett Mountain (or Mount Wachusett, take your pick) with Matt in the Hat and Tegan K. (Both of whom I hadn’t seen in FOREVAAAR). The goal here was to knock “hike a mountain” off my 101 goals in 1001 days list.

Wachusett Mountain, at 2,005′, is the “highest peak in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River,” which is a lot of qualifiers. It’s also one of those mountains that you can drive to the top of. But, most importantly, it’s pretty dang close to me, about a thirty minute drive.

The first challenge was getting there, since Apple Maps wanted to take us to some point up the summit road, rather than the visitor center where we were supposed to meet. But we did get parked ($5 day pass) and underway shortly after 10am.

While all of us are healthy adults in decent shape, none of us hike mountains all that often, so we decided not to take the steepest trail to the summit. We opted to follow the Bicentennial Trail, which circles the base of the mountain in a clockwise direction, to the Mountain House Trail, which ascends to the summit. It appeared on the map to be a less steep grade than both the Pine Hill Trail and the Loop Trail. Possibly that was deceiving, however! I am reminded that east of the Mississippi, we think switchbacks are for pussies, and that the best path to the summit is straight up the side of the mountain.

Along the route we saw red chanterelles, raspberries, chokecherry, hemp dogbane, yarrow, knotweed, and tons and tons of beeches and hemlocks. We also heard the songs of red-eyed (or possibly blue-headed) vireos, and a hermit thrush. (That I even know that is thanks to Matt in the Hat, the designated “bird guy” in our circle of friends). In the process I learned about iNaturalist, a species identification app, which I’m keen to play around with!

We reached the summit around noon, amidst a light shower of rain. Despite the weather, we lingered for a bit at the fire tower, eating some food, taking photos, and spotting various landmarks in different directions. (You can just barely make out the skyline of Boston in the distance!) There was a display about old-growth forests at the summit, which made me wish we had tried the Old Indian Trail on the north side of the mountain, which goes through the largest section of old growth forest — you guessed it — “in Massachusetts east of the Connecticut River.”

Sweaty Lise at the Mount Wachusett summit
Sweaty Lise at the Mount Wachusett summit

We descended via the steep Pine Hill Trail, which lands you on the Bicentennial Trail nearly at the trailhead. It’s hard to judge going in reverse, but it felt about as steep as the Mountain House Trail, so we may have gone out of way for nothing? Definitely was hard on the knees going down, though, and I could feel my calf muscles trembling when I stopped to rest.

All in all, it was a lovely trip with lovely people, and now I’ve got an itch to do hike more mountains in the area. Maybe try that ascent from the other side of Wachusett? Or Mount Watatic? In all my abundant free time, of course.

Meadwatch, update three

Remember the batch of mead that seemed not to be fermenting after three days? Well, two weeks passed with no signs of fermentation. I decided at that point to pull out a sample and measure specific gravity, which would at least tell me if fermentation was active.

So, fermentation is active. The specific gravity has decreased from 1.109 to 1.041, which is trending in the right direction. It’s not quite where it should be after two weeks, though, so it’s definitely going slowly. Obviously the fermentation never produced enough CO2 to fill the fermenter and displace the vodka in the airlock, probably because it was less than a gallon of mead in a two-gallon plastic bucket (which may or may not have had an airtight seal). Also, when I adjusted the recipe from 5 gallons to one gallon, I reduced the quantity of yeast from 2 packets to 1, which may not be helping.

Regardless, I racked it into a 1-gallon glass carboy, where active fermentation was readily apparent in the airlock. It’s still slow — one bubble every 18 seconds, as of this morning. But it’s happening, at least. This one will sit until it clears, and/or until fermentation has stopped completely and/or until I get really impatient. We shall see.

I am debating if I want to put on another quick mead, and/or try out a recipe from the Big Book of Mead Recipes. There’s an Autumn Spiced Cyser that I think would be lovely with the dark wildflower honey I got from the farmer’s market. That probably wouldn’t be ready until Autumn 2020, though, given this book is full of recipes that say things like “age for 1-3 years” or “bulk age until mead is clear enough to read through”).

This book also uses a lot of additives that I’m not super familiar with working with, like sodium metabisulfite, which is common enough in wine-making, but less common in beer, which is kind of my touchstone for this hobby. Unfortunately you can’t really buy small batches of most of these supplies, so there’s an investment aspect, too, as well as buying a scale fine-grained enough to measure out “0.38 grams of GoFerm” or whatnot.

I certainly have plenty of materials to make all manner of quick meads, though… gotta do something with this half finished 3-gallon jug of orange blossom honey and these giant bags of herbs.

Alsoalso, there’s something to be said about waiting until I can make a proper 5 gallon batch of mead again. Which… won’t be until I have a working bathtub again — more on that in a moment.

Finally, I’ve determined never to buy brewing supplies through Amazon again, because the vast majority of the stuff I’ve gotten has been total junk. An inaccurate thermometer, an autosiphon that won’t siphon, a fermenting pail that isn’t airtight, etc.

Bathroom Renovations

The bathroom renovation has begun on time! Early even — the demo crew was knocking at my door at 7:45am on Monday. Here’s some pics from mid-demolition:

Demolition is now complete, and we should be hearing from the plumbers soon. So far, everything is continuing apace *crosses fingers*.

Podcast Recommendation of the Week

Hey, I can’t leave you without at least one new podcast 😉 This week I’m keen on Noble Blood, a brand-new podcast about history’s most interesting royals and nobles. The second episode was on Charles II, who is of course one of the Stuarts, those disaster royals I find so deeply fascinating. In addition to discussing how Charles II compromised his way onto the throne, it also talked about the English Civil War, Charles I (possibly my all-time-favorite disaster royal), and Montrose (possibly my all time favorite 15-minute folk song about a disaster noble).

So, basically, I’m in love with this podcast.

Weekly Update: July 29, 2019

Visit to upstate NY

Last weekend I was in upstate NY — by some definitions, at least — to attend a cousin’s graduation party. While I did not see any oversized garden gnomes this time, I spent most of the 95-degree day in my uncle and aunt’s amazing in-ground pool, watched The Cat Returns, and slept in a beautifully air conditioned camper.

(Oh also I somehow managed to convince my six-year-old second cousin that I was Queen Elizabeth? So there’s that).

Matt couldn’t come with me, so EB kept me company on the trip. On our way there, we stopped in Carmel, NY, at a monument commemorating Sybil Ludington, the “teenage girl Paul Revere.” On our way out of town we stopped at two Atlas Obscura sites: the abandoned graveyard of the Dutch Reform church in Beacon, NY, and Balanced Rock in North Salem, NY.

Definitely the abandoned cemetery was the creepiest of them all, with trees devouring gravestones, tall brush, and crypts that were broken open and collapsed. AO says that no one has been buried here since the 1920s, but we saw gravestones from as late as 1990, so surely some family members are still alive and must care about the state of their loved ones’ memorials…

Games

Been doing a lot of gaming lately, because life is hard for me right now. Steam tells me I’ve logged 68 hours in the last two weeks, although at least some of those hours were due to accidentally leaving a game open overnight 😉

I finally finished Graveyard Keeper. I didn’t 100% it, as I considered doing — those fishing achievements are kind of awful. The ending was clever and very on-brand.

The only thing I wonder about is how replayable it is. There’s a simulation aspect to it that’s endlessly repeatable, sure, but you’re ultimately tied to the story mode, which might be tiresome to go through a second time.

I also spent some time on Game Dev Tycoon. This game is probably most famous for its innovative anti-piracy measures — where the developers uploaded a “pirate” version to torrent sites, which works like the real version, except that your game dev studio steadily loses money to piracy until you eventually go broke. (If you have the paid version, you can optionally choose to play in pirate mode, too, if you really want a challenge!) Gotta admire that cheekiness… also the game was dirt cheap, so it’s not like paying for it really put me out.

The game starts you in the infancy of game development, in a garage, making games for the “Govodore 64” and other definitely-not-copyright-infringing systems. You then play through the next thirty-eight years of games history, trying not to go broke. At the end it calculates a score based on how many games you’ve released, how profitable they were, etc. So basically it’s kind of a game where you play multiple times to see how to improve your scores.

(I feel like you could make a really interesting simulation game, Larp Owner, on a very similar model. But that might be Too Real for some people!)

At this point I’ve gotten to year 38 on two playthroughs and gone bankrupt on two or three. I can’t figure out why I keep having trouble in the same spot, right about in year fifteen or so. I keep making games that prior experience says will be successful, but which turn out to be flops.

I’ve put it aside for a bit, if only because I ran out of clever things to name my games! (I was particularly proud of my time travel/adventure game called “Night of the Cephalopod,” though).

Next up in my queue was Papers, Please. It’s really a brilliant game, and I’m just sad I’ve waited six years to play this! You play a border control officer/passport inspector at the border of a fictional Eastern Bloc country, approving or denying people’s entry visas based on an increasingly Byzantine set of rules. You get paid based on how many people you process. At the end of the day you are told how your family is doing, and might have to make some hard choices about whether or not they get food, heat, or medicine.

Unlike most of the games I play, this game is not about accomplishment. You can never really get ahead. Just as you think you’ve got the hang of stamping passports, the rules gets more difficult, or a terrorist attack cuts the day short. It’s really the “empathy game” I’ve heard it called, where it’s about experiencing the frustration and arbitrariness of having such a job, the uneasiness from the intrusive body scans you have to perform on some immigrants, and the hard decisions you must make.

Also I want to call out that the booth UI is ridiculously clunky, and that seems to be a deliberate design decision. Which is, of course, perfectly in tune with the rest of the game. You can buy keyboard shortcuts at the end of each day, but that also has to come out of your meager pay.

So, it’s an intense game. Maybe too intense for some people. (I’m thinking of my friends who actually grew up in Soviet regimes…)

At this point I’ve gotten a couple of different endings, including one of the very few win conditions, so I think I’m done stamping passports for the time being. I might go back and explore some of the other endings at some point.

I just began playing Cities: Skylines, a city building simulator from Paradox. Like most Paradox games, it does not hold your hand! In the thirty minutes I played so far, I had three sinkholes and a tornado. So… I think maybe I’ll turn off Natural Disasters until I get the hang of things? Also maybe not try a scenario first thing…

I’m trying to prevent myself from buying House Flipper, even though it’s on sale right now. (And I finished three games from my backlog in the last two weeks!) I just love weirdass sim games… but who knows how much game time I’ll actually have in August.

On that note…

August Plans

I’ll be traveling for nearly two weeks in August — first attending the Stratford Festival in Ontario with my mom, then camping in upstate NY with my dad. I’ll be fairly off the grid for most of that; international data is pricey when I’m in Canada, and when I’m camping I won’t have power at all.

Given this, I’ll use my vacation time as an excuse to do a shorter version of the “digital declutter” that Cal Newport recommends in his book Digital Minimalism. Basically this means I won’t be using optional web technology. It remains for me to decide what is truly “optional”, but at the very least I’ll be avoiding social media. I haven’t decided yet if this includes things like text messages or various apps. But it’s safe to say I’ll be harder to reach during this time. Let me know before August if you need any additional contact info.

Weekly Update: July 18, 2019

In which I make mead, attend Readercon, discover a new podcast, and nearly lose a stuffed dino.

Mead Again

I put on my first batch of real, two-stage, “long” mead on Monday based on the recipe in Ken Schramm’s The Compleat Meadmaker.

I only made one gallon, rather than the five gallons he gives the recipe for, mostly because it’s hard to sanitize a five-gallon carboy when you don’t have a working bathtub. This is intended to be a basic semi-sweet mead — 3lbs of honey and a little less than a gallon of water, and no flavorings. This one uses a wine yeast, Lalvin 71b-1122, which Schramm recommends for leaving some residual sweetness. This is also my first time using Fermaid K as a yeast nutrient.

And yet here we are, some… 56? hours after I started, and I still haven’t seen bubbles in the airlock. Hm.

Of course, it will take longer to start fermenting than my quick meads. The ratio of yeast to must is smaller, and there’s a greater ratio of air in the pail to displace (1 gallon in a 2 gallon pail, vs. a half gallon in a half gallon glass jug). Plus the plastic walls can expand a bit.

But still. I worry. Pointlessly, because the worst thing I could do is open up the pail and look at the must.

I’m just not sure at what point I’m like, okay, this thing is not fermenting, what do I try now?

(I’m also worried because some of the tools I ordered for this batch turned out to be utter crap — a racking cane that doesn’t hold enough pressure to siphon, a thermometer that seems way off. Maybe the yeast is old, or the pail has air leaks?)

(Alsoalso the starting specific gravity measurement was very slightly lower than where it should have been — 1.109 vs. 1.112. Worry worry worry…)

Readercon 20 and Writing Feels

I was at Readercon last weekend! I saw lots of writing friends! I attended panels about translation, curating a personal library, and the existentialist philosophies of Lloyd Alexander! I went to the Viable Paradise dinner! I ran into some newfound acquaintances!

I also spent a good chunk of time in my hotel room, playing Prison Architect, because SFF/writing cons give me Hard Feels sometimes. For more about that, see this Twitter thread:

However, I’m happy to say that I’m getting back to the editing of Lioness (again), regardless of these feelings. This last edit has really been more like a rewrite, moving a bunch of stuff that should have been upfront in the novel, but wasn’t, into the beginning chapters. Of course that has a butterfly effect on eeeeeeevery scene that comes after it…

But after this is done: that’s it. Both my therapist and I have agreed that, for my mental health, this needs to be the last edit. I may run it by one or two people for “pointing out glaring-but-easy-to-fix errors” duty, but the last thing I want is someone else to tell me I need to rewrite it.

Reading and Listening

I finished listening to Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth, which I greatly enjoyed. Will probably read the final book at some point.

For now, I’ve moved on to listening to Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets, an Audible Original. I’d describe it more as an audio-drama-slash-documentary than an audiobook; Fry narrates parts of it, but he also talks to historians and other experts, and there are mini dramatizations of certain historical events, i.e. the trial of a Forty Elephants kingpin.

All in all, it’s amazingly entertaining, but one disappointment is that in the chapter on Victorian pornography, it’s not Fry who narrates the example of gay smut 😉

I also started listening to the new-to-me podcast Ephemeral, after hearing it advertised on other Stuff podcasts. It’s about “those things that were just barely saved, and in some cases not saved at all,” which is so sublimely On Brand for me — someone who has talked before about being a memorial, of remembering things that other people have forgotten. It should be no surprised that I binged the first six episodes while driving back and forth to Quincy for Readercon.

So far the most moving episode has been episode 2, “Diaspora,” which talks about music from the Ottoman diaspora in America in the 1910s and 1920s. The songs they play are hauntingly beautiful, and you know the only reason they are not more better known is… well, racism. It also tied in well with the alternate history of 1910s Istanbul that I’d been exploring in the Leviathan series.

I also liked episode 3, “EphemaWHAT?!?, where he talks with a material culture studies professor, Sarah Wasserman, about ephemera as “items that contain with them their own eventual destruction.” There’s something so incredibly Zen about that — and, I feel, relatable to writing practice.

The producer of the show, Alex Williams, is the sound editor for other Stuff podcasts, so unsurprisingly his focus is very audio- and music-driven. That’s fine, but if I have one complaint, it’s that I’d like to see more episodes that speak to the original meaning of “ephemera,” i.e. paper, or print.

Links

In Parting

I nearly lost my beloved stuffed dinosaur, Instegra Helsing, this week! My husband cleverly snuck her into my suitcase for Readercon, but I not so cleverly left her in the bed at the Quincy Marriott. Luckily thehotel overnighted her back to me, and she arrived home yesterday. My husband snapped this pic to send to me while I was at work.

Instegra Helsing, back in her natural habitat. Also: Can you spot all the geeky things in this picture?

Look at her face. Doesn’t it just say, “I had the best adventure!”? That, or “local stegosaurus in great mood today!”

Weekly Update: July 2, 2019

This was a busy week(end) for me! I hosted a visit from my dad, made some home improvements, put on two new batches of mead, and explored a bunch of local places.

Building a bridge

My house sits above a small brook, maybe fifteen feet across; on the opposite bank is conservation land, with walking trails. When I first moved here in 2006, there was a bridge across the stream. But that bridge washed out in a storm or was dismantled. It was unclear to me if it was built by the conservation group, or by the previous owners, but for whatever reason, it was not replaced. For years now, if I wanted to go walking on those trails, I had to go the long way around, to a public access point.

So finally, with help from my dad, we rebuilt the bridge this weekend.

Well, to be fair… I didn’t help much with the bridge part. I don’t trust myself with power tools. But while my dad and Matt were sawing wood and drilling holes and chainsawing logs out of the way, I blazed a trail though a dense growth of mountain laurel with just a pair of loppers.

And now I can cross “build a bridge for the stream” off my 101 Goals in 1,000 days list!

What a lovely spot for a bridge! If it weren’t for the mosquitos, I’d hang a hammock down here…

Nashua River Brewer’s Festival

I attended this event, hosted by Beers for Good, on Saturday afternoon. After spending much of the morning working on the bridge and trail, nothing sounded as tempting as some nice cold beer.

The event, as suggested by the “Beers for Good” title, benefits a group of local charities. It’s held in Riverfront Park in Fitchburg, MA, right downtown, and on the banks of the Nashua River — again, as the name implies! Admission was $20 at door, which included a commemorative sampler glass. Each sample was $1.

There were soooo many breweries there, and I sampled soooo many amazing beers — and one kombucha! A few that stood out:

  • Both candy-inspired offerings from River Styx Brewing of Fitchburg: Morpheus, a tart watermelon ale conditioned on Sour Patch Kids, and Thanatos, an Imperial stout conditioned on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s Pieces.
  • PULP DADDY from Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company of Worcester, MA. I asked them what they had that wasn’t an IPA, and they said, “Well, nothing, but try this.” It did not disappoint! It was kind of like a hoppy orange juice.
  • Lawn Games, a tart wheat (we tried the blueberry lemon variety), and Unplugged, a cream ale, from As Built Brewing of Franklin, MA. Also they were giving out branded sunglasses, which was perfect schwag for a hot summer day!
  • The New City Mule from New City Brewing of Easthampton, MA, a hard ginger beer with a kick of lime.
  • An apricot-mango kombucha from KrafTea Kombucha of Worcester, MA. This was my first time sampling the fermented tea beverage, and I didn’t realize that it can be mildly alcoholic (about 2% ABV).

There were also food trucks at the festival, and I sampled esquites (a Mexican corn salad) from Zapata Mexican Cocina. More about that place later!

We left happy and comfortably full of alcohol! The sample glass didn’t hold all that much, but after ten or twelve of them, I was a little tipsy…

“Should you drink Element beer?” flowchart, from one of the breweries at the festival.

Livin’ La Vida Local

This weekend also gave me the opportunity to try out a bunch of local establishments in Lunenburg and Fitchburg, both individually and at the farmer’s market. Even though I’ve lived in this town for thirteen years (!), I just now am beginning to feel like part of the community.

Lunenburg Farmer’s Market

This was, for example, my first time visiting the Lunenburg Farmers’ Market. It was also opening weekend for the year, but it still had about twenty vendors, live music, and, most importantly, ALPACAS.

Some of the vendors I visited:

  • Shagbark Farm, whose owner, Tom, was kind enough to talk with me for a while about the hickory syrup he sells. Apparently it’s a sort of sweetened “tea” made from hickory bark. Our town is rich with shagbark hickory trees, hence the product and the name of the farm. We ended up buying some Pineapple-Habanero syrup.
  • Cherry Hill Farm, which has just recently gotten USDA clearance to sell their meats. We bought a few pounds of short ribs, which we’ll be enjoying tonight after marinating them in the syrup I mentioned above…
  • Wild Brook Apiaries, with hives all over the area! We bought some dark honey from them (primarily goldenrod), which I plan to use for my next batch of mead.
  • In the Meadow Farm, owners of the previously-mentioned alpacas. They raise alpacas primarily for their fleece, which is spun into yarn. (Adorably, each of their natural yarn colorways is named after the alpaca it came from, like “Phantom” and “Benjamin Buttons”). They’re also big into education, and host a monthly “yoga with the alpacas”, which I hope to get to one of these weekends!

While I did not take home any yarn — like any knitter, I already have too much — I did buy an “alpaca to go.” This was a tiny Chinese food box containing a tiny plush alpaca, an alpaca coloring page, an alpaca information sheet, and a little metal bucket.

A tiny alpaca and its al-packaging. I have already decided his name is Muchacho.

Restaurants and Cafés

Since my dad was visiting, and he needs to eat, I took it as an opportunity to visit local establishments I hadn’t been to before.

We had dinner on Friday night at Bad Larry’s, a new-ish bar and grill in the center of Lunenburg. I asked what the source of the name was, and told it came from the expression “a bad larry”, which I’d never actually heard. I found the food to be decent and reasonably priced, but nothing particularly special.

Saturday night we dined at the aforementioned Zapata Mexican Cocina, on Lunenburg Street in Fitchburg. While I am still very loyal to my favorite local Mexican restaurant, Mezcal, I liked how light and fresh the dishes here were — lots more vegetables and less cheese.

While we were at the farmers’ market we stopped at the Dragonfly Garden Cafe, a cafe in the center of Lunenburg that’s only open on Saturdays and Sundays. (They do events and catering during the week). The prices are very reasonable, and it’s a nice, cozy place to hang out, so I can see replacing weekend trips to Panera with visiting this place.

Also they do tea parties, too! Next time my birthday rolls around, I think I may celebrate it with tea and alpacas…

Watching

I also had the opportunity this weekend to watch two new Amazon original series — the adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book Good Omens, and another series called Hanna.

Good Omens was fabulous, as I expected it to be. To be fair, I read the book so long ago that most of what I remember is the jokes, like the M25 being a giant summoning circle, or the description of Aziraphale as “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.” Given that, I really had no remembrances of the book to judge from. But if nothing else, David Tennant is delightful to look at as Crowley, and I loved how they used the music of Queen to complement the story.

I didn’t much care for Hanna; it was kind of generic action-y with characters who I didn’t much care about. (Mostly I was watching it because my dad was interested). Plus they did that thing I hate where they made (one of the) villain(s) a baby-crazy woman, because we all know that not having children makes women coo-coo bananas, amirite.

Reading

I finished reading Walden for a second time. As I wrote on Twitter:

So, uh, that should hold me for another fifteen years or so.

I also read Cal Newport’s book Digital Minimalism, which I liked. He expands on the theories about social media that he first noted in Deep Work, and offers some solid strategies for mediating our relationship with new technology. I think I may devote August to doing a “digital declutter”, since I’ll be traveling anyway.

I’m currently reading the second book of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, Behemoth. Istanbul at the dawn of WWI is a super fascinating setting, and I’m really enjoying that aspect of it. I’m not sure I enjoy the fact that so much of Alek’s plot is driven by him making poor life choices.

(And omg, they named the loris “Bovril.” I’m glad I had the same reaction to that name as Deryn did: “isn’t that some kind of beef tea?”)

Alan Cumming is really amazing as a narrator for this, because he does every accent, and each one is unique and perfect. Like, he has to switch between Austrian, German, British, Scottish, Turkish, Armenian, and a bunch of other accents, plus he has to represent “genetically modified creatures that can imitate human voices.” Plus there’s that whole “one of the viewpoint characters is a girl pretending to be a boy, who occasionally loses control of the pitch of her voice” thing, which I imagine is an extra challenge. But he is just flawless throughout.

Mead!

As some of you know, I’ve been experimenting with making mead recently, using the recipes for quick meads from The Elder Scrolls Cookbook.

The first two batches of mead I made were Honningbrew Mead and Black-Briar Mead, and they were both successes! I liked the Honningbrew, with its notes of ginger and lavender, the best, but I left the Black-Briar with Alison after our “Skyrim dinner.” (It was good, but a little too cinnamon-y for my tastes).

Early last week I put on two new batches, from the two remaining mead recipes in the cookbook — Nord Mead, flavored with cardamom, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and orange zest, and Juniper Berry Mead, with yarrow, hibiscus, and (of course) juniper berries.

I’m excited to see how these turn out; I’ll be decanting them for the two July 4th parties I have this weekend!

Nord Mead on the left; Juniper Berry Mead on the right.

After that… who knows? I might have to go deeper down the mead rabbit hole.

Speaking of which…

Here’s a random bunny I saw this week.

Have a great 4th of July holiday, if you celebrate! I intend to eat lots of strawberries, hot dogs, and potato salad.

Weekly Update: June 24, 2019

I’ve decided to start doing these again, if only because not writing them makes me sad 🙁

More specifically, my social media usage has crept back up in the last year since I declared myself Done with Facebook, and I’m not happy with that. Consider this is an effort to try to use it less, but still keep you informed about the oh-so-important details of my life. And I know there are some of you who use social media even less than I do, so I find this a good way to keep in touch!

(Just a reminder: you can sign up to have these posts emailed to you — see the “subscribe via email” box in the left column of my site. If you read something and enjoy it, I’d love a comment!)

Summer Solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrated the summer solstice this past Friday. Mostly I celebrated the longest day of the year by getting up at dawn (5:07am!) and standing on my porch in my housecoat, like a weirdo.

At this halfway point of the year, I am also revisiting my yearly theme, point by point, to see how I’m doing. I’ve been journaling about each point and my progress on it as the year thus far. One thing is clear: minimalism needs more time and attention. So that’s going to be an area of focus for me in the months to come.

This holiday might as well be called the Day of White Flowers, because so many white blossoms are out! At least in central Massachusetts, where I live, this is the season for catalpa (Catalpa spp), mock orange (Philadelphus spp), partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and more. Including the most important: mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), which grows in abundance all over the woods here. The overall effect is astounding, and all really, really hard to capture in pictures. I tried — enjoy my results.

A rant about Latin vs. common names

On a semi-related note… I was taught that the reason to learn the Latin names was for clarity, because there are about a billion things called “creeping Charlie,” or “wintergreen,” to use some common examples. Latin names were supposed to be constant across the world and across time, so that if someone in China said “Chimaphila maculata,” you knew exactly what they were talking about.

The thing I’m discovering is: this is a total lie. Latin names change all the freakin’ time, as we discover more about the species and its relatives.

For just one example: When I was growing up, I learned that the Latin name for a catalpa tree — the tree that stood outside the window of my Physics classroom in high school — was Catalpa catalpa. Heck, it was even a bonus question on a test once. (Thanks, Mr. Dilley). Turns out, Catalpa is a whole genus, and the one I was looking at was probably Catalpa speciosa. And I just learned that when Linnaeus first named the damn thing, it was Bignonia catalpa. None of this, of course, makes any sense unless you understand the phylogeny of the tree itself.

Reading Thoreau’s Walden, he uses Latin names a lot. And even though Walden Pond and Concord are right around the corner from where I live, I sometimes have no damn idea what he is writing about, because almost none of the names he knew in 1864 are in use any longer. (In at least one case, the name was outdated by the time he used it!) I can generally get close — like, hey, that’s some sort of owl he’s talking about, probably a barred owl — which I guess is a benefit over common names?

Anyway, my point is, it’s not a waste of time to learn common names. It’s about as useful as the Latin name, in the long run. Especially since the vast majority of the world is gonna use the common name.

Summer roguery

The last Shadowvale event happened after a ~ year of not exercising regularly, plus a recent bout of bronchitis, so let us just say, I was awfully out of shape. I definitely felt it puffing up that hill to McKnight Hall! To say nothing of how it affects my ability to do my role as a flanker (i.e. sneaky-stab-you-in-the-back-rogue) effectively…

Thus I’ve determined that I need to get myself rogue-fit… I’d say “again,” but I was never 100% where I want to be.

I was inspired in part by this article, which suggested specific exercises for getting fitter for larps, focusing on high-intensity intervals. I’ve started doing sprints of various lengths, and — lacking a rope-climbing setup — I’ve been doing weights exercises for my hands and arms to sorta simulate that. I also spent part of my walk in the woods this past weekend jumping over things and generally parkour-ing around, although I realized after the fact that since I was by myself this was probably SUPER DANGEROUS.

(Seriously, though, parkour is very on theme for rogue training, so it’s probably something I should look into! But maybe with a partner).

Also I signed up to run the 14th Annual Benefit 5K / 10K for Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in September. (I’m doing the 5K). You might recall I declined the opportunity to run this year’s Metrowest Corporate 5K, which I’d done previously — but that was largely because running with my coworkers made me unpleasantly competitive. I’m hoping running alone will allow that competitive side of myself to rest, while sufficiently motivating me to train.

Plus, the cause here is more interesting to me — I visited Orchard House for the first time in April and adored it, wishing I knew more about Alcott.

Links

  • Converting Photoshop Letter Spacing to CSS. This article is so old the conversion tool doesn’t work any more, but it answered something I’d always wondered about! (And you can always do the math yourself).
  • Smash the Wellness Industry. How this “wellness” industry cons women into spending way more time and attention on diet than anything else.
  • Decluttering Burst: let go of one hundred things in less than an hour. I did this this past weekend, although I think a lot of what I got rid of was just trash. This is me starting to address the “minimalism” bullet point on my theme for the year.
  • Dammerung Larp. Man, I am so intrigued by this, and yet I absolutely do not have time to PC a larp in Pennsylvania. But it sounds like they are doing some really innovative things with this game, and I think Dan Comstock (of Goat LARP fame) is right when he says there’s nothing else quite like this going on in the U.S. right now.

In Conclusion

… there’s so much more I could write. About going to New Haven with EB. About making mead. About the Skyrim dinner I prepared with Alison.

But look, I can’t fit spend my life writing this blog post, so that’s going to have to be it for the week. See you in the future!

Weekly Update, Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Health stuff

… is on my mind a lot today.

First, the good. I had my six month followup with the hand surgeon who did my cubital tunnel release surgery. I was happy to report to that my left hand is mostly back to 100%. The strength in my fingers seems normal again, though I do occasionally get a bit of tingling in the fingertips. She seemed really pleased (I wonder if she was surprised it actually worked!) She’s such a lovely doctor; I’m a bit sad I likely won’t see her again! On the other hand, “no followup appointment is needed” is the nicest phrase in the English language.

I also heard that phrase from the orthopedist this week, although I am still doing PT, and slowly — ever so slowly — getting back to running.

The bad: I have been having weird, nebulous intestinal symptoms lately. Mostly a lot of bloating and fullness right below my belly button, with occasional cramps. It comes and goes in severity, which is why I’m doubting my own assessment of this discomfort. Further adding to the confusion, a friend of mine recently had symptoms like this and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, soooo, I’m not sure if this is my usual hypochondriac shuffle.

But seriously, my diet hasn’t changed all that much; not sure what’s going on here. I should probably see a doctor. But… I already feel like my entire life is doctor’s appointments. Physical therapy appointments and therapy-therapy appointments. Until recently, hand surgeon and orthopedist appointments. Followups every three months for the statins I take. Annual physical. Eye appointment this Friday. An annual visit with a cardiologist (to manage my hereditary risk) and a pulmonologist (for my sleep apnea).

I’m so bloody sick of this, and so spending even more time and money going down an avenue that will likely lead nowhere conclusive? Is a choice I am avoiding making.

Okay, on to more fun stuff, mostly connected to…

Games and streaming

I have a webcam now! While you now can benefit from my ridiculous facial expressions, this has raised its own technical challenges. First was figuring out that I needed to turn off its mic so that you didn’t get Lise in Poor Stereo. Oops. Now I’m having issues with the FPS on the webcam; seems to be an issue somewhere between the camera and OBS, so I need to investigate that. (Thanks to Marc for troubleshooting help!)


That’s a plush netch on my head. I’ve named it Captain Netchy. It amuses me, if no one else.

I did an extra-long ESO stream on Monday/Labor Day, which was a lot of fun. I was playing Br’ihnassi, my Khajiit stamina nightblade, and doing various larcenous activities, i.e. heists and sacraments, finishing off the A Cutpurse Above achievement, etc. I do worry that some people shied away because of spoilers (I was trying to finish the Dark Brotherhood questline, among other things), but I had good chats with Marc and Beth T and Pickle nonetheless. Sometimes I get disappointed if only my IRL friends come to the stream, but I also have to remember they are precisely why I started streaming in the first place!

On Saturday, I ran a vet dungeon with my ESO “friends-and-family guild” guildies! We dragged Scott and and Matt M through vet Wayrest Sewers II, and even got them the hard mode completion. This is no longer challenging content for me, but I love helping others through it. I still have fond memories of the UESP folks showing me the ropes on vet City of Ash II, so I like to pay it forward. If this trend keeps up, I may need to start my own dungeon help night for the Order of the Golden Path.

Speaking of which, I am healing my way through the veteran DLC dungeons of ESO, and I’ve now completed everything but the two new Wolfhunter dungeons on vet. I’ve found vet Falkreath Hold to be the hardest — I can’t even tell you how many times we died to Domihaus. The Menagerie in vet Fang Lair also gave us a run for our money, and there was a reason we did the /kissthis emote over the body of Zaan, in vet Scalecaller. Vet Mazzatun and Cradle of Shadows were mostly just long and annoying. Still no hardmodes for anything but the Imperial City dungeons.

We’ve also been experimenting with doing dungeons in first-person mode, for an extra challenge. Sometimes it leads to surprisingly good screenshots!

Oh, and hey, my Thursday night unexpectedly cleared up, so it looks like I’ll be streaming ESO tonight at 9pm Eastern — more time with the majestic wizard lizard, who is totally not Garak from DS9. (He may be a tailor, but he’s definitely lawful good).

In WoW news, I have finally admitted that yes, I am going to — attempt to — balance heroic raiding in WoW with other games.

Thus I got Silbuns, my warlock, to 120 over the long weekend. After reviewing all three specs leveling from 110 to 120, I decided to go with Destruction spec, because I really do not like what they did with Affliction — it just doesn’t feel right to me any more. (I enjoyed Demonology a lot, but it felt very underpowered compared to the other two). And while I may die of boredom casting Immolate on everything, Destro is at least an easy rotation.

Our guild went on our first trip to Uldir, the new raid, last night. It was a huuuuuuge turnout, maybe a full mythic raid size. I was irrationally annoyed that on top of the core group, there are the folks who didn’t raid for most of the last expansion. I know they have every right to be there, but I can’t help but remember who was and was not there for the 100+ wipes on heroic KJ.

Anyway, grumpiness aside, it went okay. We definitely did not have enough healers — three for a group of 20-25 — making me further feel guilty for not leveling my shaman. But nonetheless we cleared Taloc, MOTHER, and Fetid Devourer.

My dps… was shite. Considering I was still wearing some quest greens, a few heroic blues, and a Darkmoon Squalls deck, this is unsurprising. It’s hard to commit to making it better while simultaneously considering quitting the game, too.

It doesn’t help that the first round of dps numbers from heroic Uldir show that… yep, Destro is still underperforming. *sigh* Maybe I will switch back to Afflic, Shadow Bolt and all.

If I do keep playing, I need to do something to standardize my keybinds across the two games. I would like to stop mounting/dismounting when I mean to hit push-to-talk…

Oh, and I’m still working my way through Graveyard Keeper, that indie sandbox game where you not only garden, cook, build stuff, and fish, but also dissect bodies and help the Inquisitor with fliers for his witch-burning. I’ve discovered that the alchemy system is not just two dimensional, but THREE dimensional. This may be the game that gets to me learn pivot tables in Excel.

LARP

Larp season is beginning! Thankfully it’s a pretty light one for me. I have Shadowvale this upcoming weekend, and Mad3 at the end of the month. Feel some anticipatory anxiety towards SV, but hoping that works itself out.

Lise lives! Or: weekly update, Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

I went on vacation the first two weeks in August, and somehow I’m just now getting back to my blog. *taptap* Is this thing still on?

I think moving forward I’m not going to do the “accomplishments” format in my weekly updates, because it’s putting too much focus on “doing shit as a measure of self-worth.” And I’m finally learning how dangerous that thinking is, and beginning to accept that I have value regardless of what I do in the world.

But I do like keeping you updated on fun stuff I’ve been up to! Without that, all the weeks sorta start to look the same.

So here is some fun stuff I’ve been doing!

Camping

I went honest-to-god camping the first few days of August, at Ausable Point Campground in Peru, NY, a.k.a. the town I grew up in. In fact, it’s the same campground where my family went camping every summer when I was between the ages of (approximately) 11-16.

Unsurprisingly, it has changed a lot in over twenty years! I’m pretty sure the campsite numbering pattern is different, they took out the annoying speed bumps, and there’s waaaaay more driftwood at the beach than I recall. But the clean, cool water of Lake Champlain and the wide, straight banks of the Ausable River are mostly unchanged.

I read, swam, took lots of walks, worked on my embroidery, went boating with my dad, and even kept up with my PT exercises.


A variety of loosestrife I saw at the campsite: probably Lysimachia ciliata, or fringed loosestrife.

Stratford Festival

The next week I spent in Stratford, Ontario at the theater festival there, helping out my mom. I saw six different amazing plays, but I think I most enjoyed their production of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a “geopathological” family drama set in 1912, deeply biographical to O’Neill’s life.

We also took a day trip out to the Blyth Festival — a smaller theater festival, around an hour away — and saw Judith: Memories of a Lady Pig Farmer and ate at the epicly huge Cowbell Brewing Co. which is apparently the only closed-loop, carbon neutral brewery in North America.

Games and Streaming

The new WoW expansion, Battle for Azeroth, came out two weeks ago, and I am attempting to level a character to the new cap of 120. (One bubble away from 119, as of last night). There have been some good additions to the game (for one thing, I’m glad to never play the “hunt through your bags for AP tokens” ever again), but on the whole I’m really not feeling the new content. It feels especially juvenile compared to the nuanced ESO Summerset quests I’ve just played through. Also not thrilled that they took Drain Soul away from Affliction warlocks, even if we did get Shadow Bolt in return.

On the same day as BfA came out, the newest ESO DLC, Wolfhunter, also launched. I’ve played through the two new dungeons on normal, and they’re difficult, but a lot of fun. March of Sacrifices is probably my favorite; I really feel for Hanu and her father, even if they’re heretic Ashlanders 😉 Also the use of sneak mechanics in the indrik fights is pretty neat, too.

Before I left on vacation I was playing some No Man’s Sky. I helped a guy, was given command of a freighter, and then promptly stopped playing. Beautiful game, though, and for the most part pretty chill.

I also recently got interested in an indie game, Graveyard Keeper, after my college friend Marc started streaming it. If you ever thought Stardew Valley didn’t have enough autopsies in it, this may be the game for you!

I continue to stream and have a ton of fun doing it. I’m learning a lot about branding, communication, and relating to people, too, in a way that feels relatively low-stakes for an introvert like me. I finally ordered a webcam, too, so I hope that will allow me to better connect with folks. Fundamentally I just really love educating and entertaining people about the Elder Scrolls series!

The big dilemma I’m having is that I want to put more time into streaming — longer streams, different types of content — but that has to come from somewhere else in my life. And I’m eyeing that six hours a week that I am scheduled to be raiding in WoW, and feeling like maybe that’s where I want to cut.

But there’s an opportunity cost there. If I decide not to raid, it means spending less time with the cool people in my WoW guild (my RL friends as well as the rest of the raid team), as well as my own damn husband. So that’s a tough row to hoe.

Anyway, if you do see me go live, and you want to support this new hobby of mine, there’s one very helpful thing you can do: open up the link. Even if you can’t watch at that time; even if you have no interest in the content; even if you mute your browser tab. Just having more people there provides social proof to others, which is helpful to me in terms of growth.

Writing

Isn’t so much happening right now. I will probably get back to it at some point, but right now it brings up lot of negative feelings. Also when I am deep in my writing, I tend to start feeling like my life has no value if I don’t write, which is not a helpful place for me to be mentally, either.

I finally got a rejection from Galaxy’s Edge for Granny Hubbard — after 120+ days and being lost in two separate limbos, I got a form R. Wheee.

Lioness is still in pieces on the shop floor, so to speak. I wish I could finish this draft, but every time I sit down to work on edits, I’m filled with anxiety and guilt. And this isn’t my job, so fuck those gross feelings.

Books

I’m currently reading the first book in Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series, Daggerspell, and I gotta say… a) it’s very 1980s, b) it’s a slog. It just isn’t compelling to me. Having to continually remember who each character is the reincarnation of is more of a mental load than I really want, as is the unnecessary use of fantasy words for perfectly normal concepts like “hill” and “castle”. I have the next few novels, so I’ll probably read those, but god, I hope this improves. I know some of my friends love them, so I’m willing to be a bit more patient.

On vacation I also finished reading an older self help book, Self-Esteem, which is where a lot of my newfound ideas about self-worth are coming from.

Social

I went to the wedding of Holly and Tom this past weekend! It was of the sweetest, most nerdy weddings I’ve been to — their ceremony made me cry!

I went to see the RiffTrax Live of the classic 1980s movie Krull this past week. I had never seen it before, but, uh, wow, that sure was something. I felt like I can’t even really call it a “a bad cookie cutter fantasy of the 1980s,” because while it’s clearly trying to ride the cash train of Willow, The Princess Bride, etc, it’s still innovative in some interesting ways.

Ways that mostly don’t work, alas.


THIS IS NOT ACTUALLY A GLAIVE.

Health

Physical therapy for my right foot continues. My dorsiflexion is still not-so-great, but today my PT told me I could try running again at a low intensity. She seems to think some of the problem is in my stride, and I put more weight on outer edge of my foot than on the big toe. Those of you who are familiar with the RiffTrax of Birdemic, I am in fact getting walking lessons 😉 Hopefully I’ll be better at it than Rod by the time I’m done…


“Where’s that shop that sells instructions on how to walk like a human?”

I do not like this meat car and would like to upgrade to the newer model, but it’s still not out yet…

Habitat

In the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF RAIN we’ve had lately, we discovered that our skylights are leaking more than ever, and that it was time to get them replaced.

And then we learned the roof also needs replacing.

Sooo… that’s a big chunk of change. Not as big as I was fearing, but still something like $12k for a roof and four new skylights.

We can pay this out of savings, but it will wipe us out in terms of doing bathroom renos this year, so what we are doing instead is refinancing our house. As we apparently both have — no lie — perfect credit, we were able to get a very nice 15-year fixed mortgage, with $12k cash back to cover the roof/window repairs.

Also at some point I need to finish painting the guest bedroom. There’s just so much taping and cutting in to do in that tiny room with a slanted ceiling.

Weekly Update, 7/16/2018 to 7/22/2018

Brief Update

Mental health update: feeling pretty good lately. It turns out a good therapist is a literal lifesaver. Much love to mine!

I got out to the lake this weekend in this scorching heat, which was sooooo welcome. We also finally dug the remains of the old garden gate out of the front yard. (We left the cement bases in the ground, because there was no way we were getting those out without heavy equipment).

I’m still having a blast streaming ESO, bringing my passion for the Elder Scrolls games to a wider audience. I wish I could do this full-time! But I adore my guildies, the community, and the lore of these games, and I’ll likely continue to do this as a hobby for the foreseeable future. Need to see about making some tech enhancements to my stream in the near future, though…

(P.S. If you want to keep up with my ES and general video game shenanigans, you can find me at LisePlays on Twitch, or on Twitter).

Did a little writing-related stuff this week, finally getting back to submitting short stories and editing Lioness. It feels like ripping off a bandaid, that first time sitting down in front of Scrivener after a while, but I’m making slow progress. Once I accepted that this MS wasn’t going to be ready for Pitch Wars (and that that’s okay, I don’t really need it, etc), I felt a lot better about the whole project.

Finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was a quiet but intense book. Definitely Peak Gaiman!

Accomplishments

Writing
– Submitted a story to Diabolical Plots (can’t say which due to anonymity)
– Sent “Pinions” to a beta reader
– Did ~1h of editing on Lioness

Reading
– Finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman

Other Media
– Listened to Twitch Talks #10
– Listened to Stream Coach, “Top 3 Consistency Tips” and “Consistency on Twitch with Cahlaflour”
– Listened to Sword & Scale #117

Health
– Had therapy appointment
– Did PT exercises x 6
– Went swimming at the lake

Games
– Had a session of my D&D game
– Streamed two hours of ESO questing on Scars-like-Lightning
– Streamed 1.5h of Fishing Lore
– Finally bought a proper house in ESO (Amaya Lake Lodge) and started decorating it
– Did bunches of normal dungeons with Anyael in ESO
– Did vet Ruins of Mazzatun, Crypt of Hearts I, and Imperial City Prison with Falanu
– Did normal Hel Ra Citadel and 2 x Cloudrest with Falanu and Anyael

Habitat
– Helped Matt remove old garden gate from the yard
– Met with landscaper/lawn guy
– Did two loads of laundry
– Tested out tent for camping trip

Picture of the Week

For some reason I don’t entirely understand, I still have this lovingly-copied copyright protection device from Monkey Island 2 hanging around my house. It’s not exactly necessary these days, since I can simply play the iOS port of it. Still haven’t ever figured out the spitting contest…

Weekly Update, 7/9/2018 to 7/15/2018

Brief Update

I went to Readercon this week, convinced that writing was too hard and I didn’t want to do it any more. I’m happy to report that my mind has been changed.

For my friends, who allowed me to talk about my difficulties, saw me as I was, and accepted that, thank you. Special thanks to:

  • Melissa Caruso, who painted me as someone who is determined enough to make a story work, no matter how hard it may be. Her description made me want to live up to that standard!
  • Victoria Sandbrook, who was so enthusiastic about my work, asking me to send her anything that might need beta reading.
  • My Readercon roomie Beth T, who said, “I will be very disappointed if you stop writing, you silly goose.”

For Rose Fox’s talk on “A Compassionate Approach to Writer’s Block,” which explored new ways of looking at writing — also, thank you. Some of these ideas had been percolating in the back of my head, but their talk gave me the permission I wanted to step through that door. They reminded me that writing should be fun, and if it isn’t fun, I don’t have to do it.

Other people helped, too! I spent a large portion of this con having great conversations at the bar with people who cared deeply about stuff, and I feel like that made me feel more like a part of the world than a machine for producing stuff.

  • Talking to Steen about his passion for Global Frequency made me remember my own passion for meta-narratives.
  • The (Hugo nominated!) Suzanne Palmer remains the kindest person ever, who gave up a book she had found on the free table because I expressed interest in it. I am in awe of her positive attitude about the shit she’s gone through to get to where she is now.
  • It was great to see VP17er Paul S. again and talk to him about his newfound interest in reading long-form political commentary, and what he gets out of that.
  • I also really enjoyed getting to meet his girlfriend Molly, who can talk about Edith Wharton, Twin Peaks, and her awesome Diablo tattoo with equal aplomb.
  • I feel like I barely saw Kevin R/Kellan S at all, but I enjoyed talking to him about the housing situation in San Francisco and how it compares to Boston.
  • Arkady Martine helped me learn slightly more than the zero I already knew about city planning.

Of course I saw many people who I’m not mentioning here, but let me just say: you are all awesome, and I see you, in your joys and your frustrations. You are all part of me.

Also on Friday morning I woke up to an email with the ominous subject line “GRANNY.” I had a moment of fear that it was about my surviving grandmother, but then I realized that it was from the slush reader at Galaxy’s Edge, and that she was sending my story, “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime,” up to Mike Resnick. So, that was a great thing to start the weekend with. Nothing may come of it, of course, but it helped to cement the “yes, you are a writer” feeling.

Accomplishments

Other Media
– Listened to Loreseekers #18
– Listened to The Art of Charm #711
– Listened to Stream Coach, “Your Chat is Boring”, “Dominate Your Day”, “The Best Green Screen”, “How to Promote Your Stream”
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Black Holes, Part 1: Phantom”

Games
– Did normal Hel Ra Citadel, Halls of Fabrication, and Asylum Sanctorium on Falanu with the UESP guild
– Did normal Volenfell and White Gold Tower with Anyael
– Streamed ~30m of questing on Scars-like-Lightning

Social
– Attended Readercon
– Met Jess M. for dessert/drinks/Thurs of Readercon

Health
– Had my first PT appointment
– Had a hair appointment
– Did my PT exercises x 6
– Scheduled annual eye appointment