Last updated October 16, 2023.
I did a great deal of traveling in the past two months. I went on an Alaska cruise with my family (⭐️⭐️⭐️—to the cruise, not my family!), and then spent a month in Bali, Indonesia (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️—the area I was staying was very crowded and dirty and everything is under construction, but I got to hang out with my friends and go to the beach a lot) with a one-week jaunt up to Shanghai, China (still ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ after all these years, the metro is just chef’s kiss) to take care of some business as well. Now I’m back home in Somerville, MA trying to put my life back together. To give you an idea of how long I’ve been away, I forgot how to work the blinds in my bedroom.
I came back to New England in early October to beautiful, cool fall weather. In the few years I’ve been back in the States, I don’t recall such a truly crisp, autumny fall as this. Yesterday I hiked Mt. Kearsarge in NH (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, very pretty, only almost died sliding on wet rocks a couple times) to see the foliage and get some fresh air. Really a wonderful feeling. I think we’re in for a cold winter, which it feels like we haven’t really had in a while.
I continue to work hard on the memoir. We are getting closer but it’s just so hard to stay motivated. I have so many ideas for new fiction projects I want to do and it feels like I can’t get to them because of this huge thing I’ve committed to that needs to get finished first. A few of the people I’ve told about this project have excitedly told me that once this book succeeds I will have a great platform to ghost-write memoirs for lots of other wealthy Chinese people. I am here to tell you that after this project I hope to never write non-fiction ever again, or at least not for a long time.
As in prior years I am working with a few Chinese and Chinese-emigrant students on college and grad school admissions essays. A year ago I was certain I wanted to quit this line of work. Now, I’ve made a lot of improvements to my workflow that have made the job less cumbersome and more rewarding, and I feel really grateful that I have such a flexible and satisfying gig to support my lifestyle and creative work.
Just finished Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Memory,” (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) the latest (final?) book in his “Children of” series. I don’t know how he did it but somehow this entry topped both of the previous two books in the series for me. When it got to the final act and everything suddenly changed, I was worried that he had lost control somehow, but then he brought it around in a way that rocked my world and had me muttering to myself, “This guy is a genius.”
Next up is “Menewood” by Nicola Griffith. “Hild,” (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) to which this is a sequel, might be the single most amazing book I’ve ever read. High expectations for the sequel. It is a very big book that opens with three maps, a family tree, and a dramatis personae of what feels like 100 characters.
My reading diet is easily summarized as “fifty percent books people read in high school, fifty percent books whose covers depict an alien planet with some lens flare.”
Playoff baseball mainly. My Red Sox (⭐️) second half prediction looked good at first but didn’t pan out as they completely collapsed down the stretch. Now I’m rooting for… I don’t know, I guess the Phillies? Although I’ll watching as much of every remaining game as I can with great interest.
On the second leg of my flight back from Bali I watched all three Lord of the Rings films (⭐️⭐️⭐️) for the first time. The first one was great. The latter two were kind of a chore. I don’t fully get the hype but I’m glad that I can now understand a lot more memes and references, a mere twenty years after everyone else.
I continue to binge The History of Byzantium, amongst my more usual rotation of comedic/tech/indie talk show podcasts. It is an absolutely worthy successor to The History of Rome, which I finished last year. Music-wise I’ve been enjoying a lot of Stone Temple Pilots and adjacent bands.
I tend to only listen to music in social situations or at the gym. Otherwise I favor podcasts. Music is definitely more relaxing; the mental resources needed to consume a podcast are non-trivial and some days I hit a wall where I just don’t want to listen to podcasts anymore.
I beat Tears of the Kingdom (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️) a couple months ago and put it down to try other things. I tried Hollow Knight (⭐️⭐) because it came so highly recommended from all the people whose video game taste I trust and found it way, way too difficult, by which I mean I felt totally helpless and could not figure out how to progress. My feeling about video games is that if I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do without looking up a walkthrough online, then the game isn’t worth my time. I’m not averse to looking up specific puzzle solutions or mechanics if I’m stuck and otherwise know the way forward, but if the entire game blocks me from having fun at every turn without explanation or hints, I’m just going to quit. So I’m back to playing TotK as just a brainless “run around and gradually work towards 100%ing it” game, the way I used to play BotW.
Despite it being specifically my shit, I am actively avoiding Baldur’s Gate because I fear that if I start playing I’ll disappear and never be seen again.
If space opens up in my life for a more involved game experience I might go check out Dark Souls 3. But right now I’m mainly just waiting for the Elden Ring DLC to drop.
Oh, and I continue to run a homebrew D&D 5E campaign called Castle Zania for a party of three friends. Four players feels like a really magical number for D&D. You lose some of the chaotic fun of a bigger group, but the game just runs so much more smoothly in all other ways.