November was definitely the most fun month of the year solely because of my trip to Japan. It has been over a year and a half since I last visited Japan and honestly I wish I could go back next month already. Even after spending 12 days in Tokyo there were still dozens of things we were left wanting to do. This last trip has just reinforced my dream of living in Tokyo/Japan for at least a couple of years of my life. I am very interested in what day-to-day life would be like for someone like myself.
But enough about Tokyo. If you're interested in the specifics check out #Tokyo2017 for daily summaries which I will hopefully be posting this weekend. For this retrospective I gotta look back at the first half of the month where I was not living in a fantasy land and actually trying to make progress on my resolutions.
Oh one last thing about Japan. While we were there the Kyūshū Basho sumo wrestling tournament was on and we watched it nearly every day. I am super interested in following sumo wrestling now.
Unfortunately I did not have a great month when it came to bouldering. I tore a callous on my left ring finger and it caused my some serious pain while climbing so I was not able to push myself as hard as I wanted to before my vacation. I was only able to get four V4 problems done this month. However my finger is now completely healed so I am looking forward to rebounding in December.
I also did not do that great with respect to food this month either and I actually think I did better while I was on vacation. I did eat out every night in Tokyo but I also walked a lot while sightseeing and didn't munch on random snacks. During the first half of the month I got way more food than usual from the grocery store in the lobby in my building because Soylent seemed to not be as filling as it once was. I also hung out with friends several times and therefore ate and drank more than usual. I think I need to create some stricter rules around dinner meals (maybe cooking again) to stop myself from indulging.
Even though I wasn't able to exercise as hard as I wanted and slipped a bit with respect to food my weight and body fat percentage continue to be stable. I've said in the past I am happy with how I look but I am a bit frustrated that I am not losing any body fat so it is time to change things up. My new goal is to lose some of the fat around my waist or chest and see some visible difference there. I plan to do this by supplementing my cardio in the mornings with some weightlifting. I am also going to start eating breakfast before I exercise. I have not been doing that all year and apparently that is a major no-no if you are trying to gain muscle mass.
Read a book
I finally finished The Way of Kings (the first book in The Stormlight Archive series) and it was worth the slow burn. All of that world and character building that slowly unfurled over the first 80% of the book completely snowballed during the last 20%. Amazingly things didn't end as tropey as I was afraid they were going to just by virtue of it being a fantasy book and it seemed like the main character was going to have his deus ex machina moment. What actually happened was much more unexpected but still much more believable. The events that were set in motion made me want to immediately start reading Words of Radiance which is exactly what I did. I will be utterly shocked if I finish it in December so it will probably roll over into next year.
Play a video game
This was a good month for gaming of all kinds.
First, I beat Super Mario Odyssey. It took me about a dozen hours and 99% of them were super fun. There were some frustrating controls and bad camera moments as well as mostly subpar boss fights but on the whole the core gameplay of tracking down all of the power moons was really good. I am more of a fan of the old Mario design where you picked what star you wanted to get and the level was constructed around it but the open world levels in Odyssey were well designed and never left you feeling overwhelmed. There was always something in the corner of your eye that would lead you to another power moon. I do hope that Nintendo goes back to the Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Galaxy way of things but seeing as how Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is also an open world game it seems Nintendo has abandoned the old ways.
There is one thing with Super Mario Odyssey that is absolutely unforgivable and that is the motion controls. A number of moves are only available if you use motion controls and those moves are most easily triggered if you are using the detached Joy-Cons. I cannot believe Nintendo created controls exclusively for the least used permutation of how the Switch is played. To make things worse, if you were using the Pro Controller there were multiple buttons that did the same thing! Any one of those duplicate buttons could have triggered these motion control exclusive moves. I cannot fathom how this got through five years of development. Someone at the top of the management chain must have shoved it down the developers throats.
Next on the gaming docket was the Xbox One X. Ever since I bought my 4K TV I planned to buy a 4K gaming console and this month I finally broke down and purchased an Xbox One X. I decided that Middle-earth: Shadow of War would be the game I would use to showcase that this console purchase was not in vain and boy did it deliver. The 4K resolution/textures and HDR lighting really did make the game look worlds better than anything I have played on a console. The only issue I had was that out of the box the Xbox One X did not work with my TV. It gave cryptic error messages saying my TV was able to do 4K gaming but not 4K HDR gaming. I turned to Google and found some random Reddit thread detailing which settings I needed to toggle on both my TV and the Xbox One X (god damn that is really getting annoying to type). I am really surprised that Microsoft shipped it like this because I can imagine it is not going to work out of the box for most gamers and Microsoft's troubleshooting was garbage.
But anyways what about the actual game. How was it? I was a huge fan of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (it was actually my 2014 Game of the Year) and this is very much more of the same. The core gameplay of running around an open world slaughtering orcs, destroying encampments, dominating captains and war chiefs are all there and as fun as ever, especially in 4K HDR. The problem is that that story mode is absolute dog shit and not only is it the quickest way to level up your character but also you need to play it for about 5-6 hours before you can even start dominating orcs.
So the start of this game is a real slog that I could see turning off a lot of gamers because honestly it is not fun. To boot the story feels like it was something pulled off of fanfiction.net. Why the fuck is Shelob suddenly a sexy spider lady? How the fuck does she have the power to dominate someone with the One Ring? Why are all of the humans doing stupid shit and running headfirst into obvious danger? The only interesting writing in this game is the crazy shit the orcs say when you initiate combat with them. Their smack talking is top notch. Looking back at what I am writing it sounds like I really dislike the game but honestly this is just the stuff the irks me. I am still playing it and enjoying every second now of murdering orcs. I will definitely finish this game in December.
Stepping outside of video games and into the world of board games I finally managed to start my first campaign of Kingdom Death: Monster. Both the setup and the rules were much more complex than I was expecting. Also while the rulebook is also hard bound and beautifully illustrated I found myself constantly using BoardGameGeek to verify my interpretations of the rules because some were quite vague. That being said the actual gameplay was amazing. The combat layer required a lot of strategizing and I can see the base building becoming super in-depth as the campaign goes on. I aim to play more of this campaign in December as well as build some more miniatures.
One thing I noticed from my first play session was that while the Kingdom Death: Monster box was very pretty it made things difficult to setup and access during the game. I watched this video from The Regulars to get some inspiration on how I could possibly organize my cards and miniatures to make things easier to setup in the future. I bought a Battle Form case to house my miniatures and random game pieces, a wooden case from The Broken Token to house my monster cards and then a binder and some coin pocket pages to hold the equipment cards. This should make accessing the needed pieces much easier for future game sessions.
Become conversational in another language
The Kana flash cards continued to be amazing in the lead up to our Tokyo trip. I found that while I was there I was able to translate the vast majority of hiragana and katakana into their roman characters which I could then translate to English.
Also this trip has just hammered home my urge to be able to converse in Japanese. I felt bad so many times throughout the trip when someone at a restaurant or shop would do their best to attempt to communicate with me in English and I could do absolutely nothing to help them understand other than just point like a cave man.
I think the next step in learning Japanese is to continue using the Kana flash cards but also start constructing my own flash cards for words that I constantly found myself searching for when I was in Tokyo. I should be able to expand my vocabulary to a few hundred words so that while I may not be able to create perfectly grammatical sentences I can still do better than just pointing.
Amazingly I did some programming and I actually had to do it when I was in Tokyo. I screwed up my blog engine by making it do work in the time zone of whatever the machine it was being run on. This had the problem where articles that I had published in PST where in a different day when run in JST. I had to update my engine to explicitly use the published at time of the articles and not convert it to the local time zone. This is probably something I should have tested for and been more explicit against but it is the stereotypical programming problem where I could just never fathom something like this because how often do you leave your time zone?
Do not indulge in time killing activities
I slipped in this regard as well. I did spent too much time on Reddit or watching random videos. Elsie and I actually didn't have any TV to watch and that seemed to cause us to just randomly consume other media. We gotta pick another show to go through. Maybe Futurama? Stargate SG-1? The Punisher? Future Man? Wow there is a lot of good TV that we could watch!
Oh one of the random things we watched was John Wick: Chapter 2. God damn that is such an amazing fucking movie. Everyone needs to watch the John Wick movies.
Other than two goals which I grossly underestimated I think I did a solid job on the rest. I didn't complete all of them but I at least made progress.
Complete eight different V4 problems.
Unfortunately since I tore one of my callouses I just couldn't push myself to complete more than four V4s.
Do not use UberEats or TryCaviar.
I caved and ordered McDonald's once from UberEats. I'm weak.
Finish reading The Way of Kings.
Very slow burn type of book but it had a great ending.
Beat Super Mario Odyssey.
Was a solid game start to finish. Had some rough edges but overall a great game.
Start a Kingdom Death: Monster campaign.
I was able to start my campaign and play through the first year. I am buying all sorts of equipment to help organize playing the game and plan to get deeper into my campaign and assemble some more miniatures.
Continue using the Kana flash cards.
Yup I kept using them in the lead up to my Japan trip and they worked great. I even started memorizing certain words.
Add photos to Japan 2016 articles.
I would say I was too busy but I made choices to do other things rather than this. I don't feel bad about doing that but I really would love to see images on my blog I just know it is a bigger issue than I am realizing.
Publish some more articles to my Japan Travel Tips series.
I published a number of articles for specific city tips and even created a #JapanTravelTrips tag to house them all.
Blog every day while on vacation.
I didn't manage to publish once. While the blogging engine time zone issue I mentioned prevented me from publishing on the first day it quickly became clear that there wasn't enough time for me to write, edit and publish an article every day before bed.
Last time I was able to do it because I was literally lying in bed with my iPhone and just dumped my brain to Facebook at the end of every day. But with my blog I feel some sort of higher level of expectations for what should be published here and I was just not getting any of my drafts to that point before I was just so damn tired that I had to go to bed.
Now that I've experienced this once I hope that in the future I will be able to set better expectations for how I can share something in near real-time.
This is a strange month to grade. I feel that this could be the best month of the year. I hit most of my goals and had an absolutely amazing vacation. Sure there are a couple dips like eating too much, not really programming and wasting a bit too much time on Reddit but I think of all the writing I did, the games I played, the books I read, those really add up and showcase that I didn't waste as much time as I thought. Rebounding with bouldering, lifting some weights before cardio and making a conscious effort to do some programming should help make December a great month.
So then let's set the goals for December:
- Publish articles for Tokyo 2017 daily summaries.
- Finish Japan Travel Tips series. There are two drafts in progress that I just need to buckle down and finish. Multiple friends have already asked me for advice when traveling to Japan and these articles would be invaluable to link to.
- Publish 2017 Game of the Year articles.
- Complete eight different V4 problems.
- Use UberEats or TryCaviar only once a week!
- Read at least 50% of Words of Radiance.
- Beat Shadow of War.
- Get to year 3 in Kingdom Death: Monster campaign.
- Continue using the Kana flash cards and begin creating your own.
- Build script for generating iOS framework projects.