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Jan. 11th, 2018 @ 10:24 pm Alimentum!
For my birthday Liv and I went to alimentum. We weren't sure, but our first thought was closed, and we'd said we'd like to try alimentum again at some point. I'm really glad we did, it was a really nice evening!

I didn't live blog the food, but I did take notes :) I'm sure I didn't look like a restaurant critic (in my frilly red larp shirt) but I guess there's no harm if I did.

Olives and very nice bread.

Amuse bouche, potato and something soup, extremely tasty, different and interesting than usual potato soup.

Caramelised Beetroot, goat's cheese, and lovage (apparently). And granola which wasn't mentioned, but was one of my favourites. The caramelised beetroot was really good! I don't usually like beetroot especially, but this version was really good.

Turnip, apple and maple something. This was good; I liked the combination of everything more than each part which is the point. The sauce was very good, I mopped up all I could.

Roasted cauliflower, and some other things. This was really good -- I've always somewhat liked cauliflower, but thought of it as a fairly neutral food. The roasted version was excellent.

And mushroom risotto turned up to 12. With, um, pasta risotto? And fancy mushrooms? And anyway, if anything it smelled even better than it tasted but it was really good.

And three deserts plus chocolates/sweets. Which were also really good but I didn't have a lot to say about. The gin and tonic sorbet was really good (and I don't like liquid gin and tonic much). The battenberg mirrored the presentation of the beetroot dish earlier (I think?)

Ironically, when I eat a fancier meal, I find myself more strewing crumbs everywhere. I think just because there's more different bits going on.

Lots of the dishes definitely did "these parts are ok, or not something I'm a big fan off, but they did something really good with them". Which I guess is a lot of the point!

I don't think I'd choose an £80 meal over two £40 meals. But I'd rather have two £40 meals and one £80 meal than four £40 meals (or two £80 meals). But then I guess, if the prices were swapped, I might pay £80 for the £40 meal at least sometimes if it was the only way to get it -- I appreciate the variety, and if the £80 meal is more expensive to produce, it's worth paying to get it.

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Jan. 7th, 2018 @ 09:41 pm Assassin's Guild game (non-working title to come :))
OK, I've playtested this a few times and I'm liking how it works so far, although I think it needs some rules updates of some form.

The current version: there is a deck of 15 unique assassin cards. Each player starts with 15 influence tokens. Over the course of the game the cards are dealt out into a long banquet/meeting table formation (i.e. one face up card is the head of the table, at the far end from the remaining deck, and two parallel rows of assassin cards stretch between them).

Players represent guildmasters emeritus, or other powerful people with an interest in the election of the next guildmaster. At the end of the game, if you have influence counters on an assassin higher on the table than anyone else does, you win. If two assassins are at the same height on opposite sides of the table, the one with the highest influence+prestige wins.

A sample card is "Revolutionary Ruth. Prestige +1. Ability cost 3: Kill any one assassin in top three" (i.e. the one at the head of the table, or next to the head of the table).

The specifics. Turn structure. First you turn up a card. If it's the first turn, it goes at the head of the table. Else, it goes on the shorter row, if there is one, else your choice of either side of the table.

Then you may place any number of influence counters on any one card (empty, or controlled by you, not controlled by opponent). Placing on the one or two cards closest to the deck is free, the next position costs an additional one influence to place (e.g. to place two counters on the assassin second-to-bottom, you'd place two counters on her, and discard one back into the bag), and one more for each higher position.

Then you may either promote any one assassin you control (if their printed prestige plus the number of influence counters on them is greater than the prestige+influence of the next higher card on the same side). Or, you may use an ability of one assassin you control, by removing the number of counters specified in the cost from it and replacing them in the bag, and doing whatever the effect says (usually killing an assassin in a particular position, opposite, next higher, anywhere not adjacent, etc.).

When the deck is empty, players can continue to take turns, but if they're ahead they can skip their turn and call a vote, and assuming they control an assassin higher than any other player, they win.

How does it play? I aimed for something a bit like loveletter, with lots of calculated risks, but also quite ruthless swings. And it turned out about like that. There's a reasonable amount of cat-and-mouse, putting enough influence on an assassin to be useful, but not so much that you're left behind if it's killed. I'm still trying to tune the cards, right now each game feels fairly game-like, but I want to make sure it doesn't descend into "always choose one of these three most powerful cards" or "first player always wins" or something else degenerate.

Tweaks I'm considering are ones that make it so you can't just turn up a new assassin, place counters on her, and use the ability immediately, because that's quite swingy. And to try to adjust the costs so costs other than 2 and 3 are usable.

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Jan. 1st, 2018 @ 02:33 pm Jack's 2017
I got a new, more senior, job which has been going reasonably well. I still sometimes find it hard to get work done at work, but I think I've doing much better at new job than before and still getting better.

Rachel moved back to Cambridge! There has been much more cuddles, and time to talk, and cooking together, and regular time on Friday nights, and it's just been so much better.

We went to worldcon. Rachel and I went to Norwich and Great Yarmouth. I had a day out with ghoti at Felixstowe. I spent a day walking in Thetford forest. And probably other days I've forgotten.

I started going to the gym again, instead of jogging outside, since I was working near one and driving anyway. I'd lost almost all the progress I made -- I think I'd been jogging outside, but not being strict enough at measuring my speed and so it had slowly but steadily atrophied. That was really dispiriting. But I have slowly been working my way up again since I've been gym'ing.

After I did NaNoWriMo last year, I resolved to set myself a goal *each* month. Often not an aggressive one, but with the aim that I would set a *reasonable* goal and concentrate on that and not freeze up feeling like I had to do absolutely all the things. That was mixed, but generally a great success. I did more projects, programming and similar than I have for ages. And I was more relaxed too. This year, my aim is "the same, but more so".

What projects did I make progress on?

I wrote a simple android game, Emojilution Match. Needs GPS but not internet, more info here: https://jack.dreamwidth.org/1038552.html

I revised my python top-down tile-based adventure-game engine (still nice but not really usable atm)

I did a nanowrimo story (a cut-down one, not 50k). As soon as it's a little tidied up I will enthusiastically share it with people who were interested!

And a Vorkosigan yuletide story that got positive comments: http://archiveofourown.org/works/13046442/chapters/29842002

I did some roleplaying (I think that was this year?)

I revamped my board game Toy Factory. It plays an awful lot more interestingly. I think it's getting close to being finished

I worked on other board games, including demon summoning game :)

I have been keeping a text diary/todofile for about three years now and it's definitely been useful. I'm still constantly updating how I use it. I also think, it's hard to be sure, but I think I've got a lot better at being organised, at doing things, and also at relaxing and allowing myself space to breathe.

See the recent bad-brains post. And also, the last couple of months, I deliberately tried to build more "not specifically scheduled" time into my month aims, and see if I filled it up with an appropriate mix of enjoyable stuff and productive stuff, and it went pretty well: I did interesting things, if not what I might have expected to start with, then things that afterwards I'm pleased I did. Like, I do have an intuition for what to spend time on, but that used to be drowned out by other things, and now it's slowly coming to life again.

I'm not doing specific new year resolutions, but I have in mind projects I would like to do at some point this month. January's is to fix several of the problems with Emojilution Match to make it playable, and to remove last problems with nanowrimo to make it readable even if not finished.

Fingers crossed for 2018.

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Dec. 31st, 2017 @ 03:46 pm Last Jedi: Responses to other reviews
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Dec. 28th, 2017 @ 10:20 pm Last Jedi: Things I had problems with
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Dec. 28th, 2017 @ 09:41 pm Last Jedi: All the things I loved
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Dec. 26th, 2017 @ 06:32 pm Last Jedi: Overview
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Dec. 10th, 2017 @ 06:39 pm Mood introspection
It's not escaped me that my previous post sounds a bit like "coming out of depression". For a long time I've wondered if I have a... specific brain Thing. But I've been really shy about thinking about it openly, partly because of being scared to realise it if I do, partly because I know many friends who experience severe problems[1], and I don't want to trivialise them by speculating that I might have a mild form of... something when the evidence is pretty ambivalent.

Ironically, feeling better has made writing that post trivial instead of a giant chore I didn't think I could ever force myself to do :)

I know brain Things often come in groups, so it wouldn't be surprising if there were several related things. Conversely, some things are very binary, you do or you don't, but other things are "everyone does this, but if you do it so much it's a problem for your life, then that's probably A Thing that needs to be fixed".

What could there be? Ill-informed speculation follows.

Depression? I definitely have some signs. Difficulty forcing myself to do things. General feelings of worthlessness, and lack of being excited about things.

ADHD? I drink... lots of caffeine, and it seems to help me sleep more than keep me awake. Until recently, successful projects were always ones I threw myself at 200%, any other time, if I was doing anything worthwhile, I'd usually switch to browsing the internet really quickly.

But OTOH didn't feel like I was *distracted* by the internet, more that, forcing myself to do anything which was achieving something, as soon as I started, I felt a massive pressure away from doing it. Even with things that were important to do, that was one simple step, I felt a massive pressure to... not do them.

My clearest description is something like "uber procrastination". Doing *anything*, even things I actively want to do, has usually involved finding it really hard to get started. Even every day things -- if I had all weekend to do something, it would TAKE all weekend to get started. Even if it was something I wanted to do. But some important things took for years, because I'd shy away, or start shaking, when I forced myself.

Like, it feels ridiculous to describe procrastination as a life problem. But it clearly WAS. It did any number of harms.

I eventually improved that a LOT, partly through breaking through some of the biggest barriers through trial and error and forcing myself to do those things (much much thanks to the people close to me who helped a lot and were patient when I couldn't understand or explain why things were difficult). And partly through slowly cultivating an awareness that if something seemed intimidating, if I roughed out how well I could probably do it, even if that wasn't really good enough, doing that was a reasonable win, and that made starting big tasks a lot easier.

But I still felt a lot of small scale procrastination, of "don't want to stand up and go to work", "don't want to do the thing today", mostly procrastination for its own sake, not because the task would be unpleasant.

My working theory is something like, bad habits were screwed up in my brain for various reasons, probably due to some unfortunate tendency in my brain that became self-reinforcing, and got so big there were a giant problem, and caused symptoms that happened to be similar to Official Brain Things for related reasons.

What are the reasons to think that I don't have a specific Underlying Brain Thing? Well, I'm really not sure. But for depression, it always sounds like, things can make you happy, but usually can't make you not depressed unless they specifically treat it. But if I manage to get, like, a week of surmountable problems, a bit of social company, some relaxation time, then my brain seems to start working ok. It's just that I've built up the problems so much I almost never did experience that.

For ADHD, it doesn't seem like I can't concentrate -- I seem to have a normal ability to remember things, to keep concentrating across distractions, to work on something boring but worthwhile for long periods of time. It's just anything with a deadline that I can't concentrate on.

I'm sorry for this massive introspection dump. Especially, I hope it isn't bad for anyone who does have Actual Brain Things. But I'm also interested, if my description makes more sense to anyone else than it does to me.

ETA: Oh, right. Anxiety. Or anxiety?

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Dec. 10th, 2017 @ 06:24 pm Mood improvement
Just over a week ago, things... somehow fell into place in my head. I think a confluence of circumstance led to that, that of all the things that felt weighing on me, they'd mostly resolved themselves one way or another.

Work felt like it shifted, not from any particular change, but like a magic eye picture from "probably all this work will be worthwhile, but there's no way to tell, I just need to force myself to have faith" to "ok, it seems what we're doing is achieving progress". But along with that change all sorts of other things just fell away too. All sorts of things that were, "oh my god, this has been hanging over me for years, it shouldn't be that hard, but even if i do it, I'll have so many other things to do too" became "oh well, most people probably don't have time for all those things, if I do even some of them I'll be kicking arse".

Getting things done shifted from predominantly "I need to force myself to do X, Y and Z today, inevitably I'll leave them as long as I can before starting so I have some rest" to "I could do A, B and C today, if I do I'll feel really good, and if I start them now, they shouldn't even take so long". I did more flop.

One possible instigation was work coming into focus from having clear deadlines with clear goals. Another was my resolve to set myself no long term goals for december, but try to relax. Another was my resolve to focus less on specific goals, and more on seeking self-reinforcing loops, of small mood improvements that let me do small tasks, which in turn lead to larger mood improvements.

I thought about this in terms of my putative productivity app. I realise that historically, the productivity tool I need is primarily about forcing myself to do a minimum. Of choosing what I can consistently do, and doing it EVERY SINGLE DAY, because then I can build up a habit of doing it, and a sense of achievement at sticking to it. But when my mood lifts, it's more like, I want to do all the things and I need to channel myself into doing a reasonable mix and pacing myself.

One question is, can I keep it up? I hope so, but I don't know for sure. Another is, am I actually being more effective, or happier, or neither? I think both are true but I'm not completely sure.

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Dec. 3rd, 2017 @ 11:25 am Board game reviews (all thanks to ghoti IIRC)
Five Tribes

I'm not sure how to describe this. You have a set of large tiles which are dealt out to form the game board. Each tile has some humeeples on. The humeeples represent different abilities. On your go, you pick up all the humeeples from one tile, and drop one on an adjacent tile, one on a following tile, etc. The last meeple, you must drop on a tile containing one or more humeeples of the same colour. Then you collect all of those, and get some effect based on the colour (e.g. one just gives you a point for each, one lets you collect cards, some are saved for later, etc).

Also, every tile has an ability which you get to use (gaining cards, putting a palmeeple tree or a pameeplace on it to increase its score, etc)

Also, if you empty a tile, you place a cameeple there, and get points for that tile at the end of the game.

So there many many different ways of getting points (I've left out a lot of the specifics). When you explain it, it sounds complicated. But when you play it, it falls into place.

There are also djinn, which can be gained from some square, which some points but a particular special power. It's useful if you can get a special power that accords with a strategy you want to take anyway; it gives shape to a particular game. Otherwise, it's usually not quite worth taking djinn because you need several things to work to get one. But they are BEAUTIFUL, each djinn has a unique drawing, a unique name, and really sells the flavour.

It has the feeling of a game where every game is quite different, which is really interesting.

Unfortunately, the rest of the flavour is mixed: a lot of quite good, but some is a bit unmotivated or questionable.

Founding Fathers

A game about writing the american constitution. It looks complicated but plays very well. And it somehow really captures the flavour of the founding fathers, bustling around, making pompous or populist speeches, and assembling this complicated compromise document.

Unable, Unwilling

I didn't play this but Liv and Osos did and told me about it and it sounded great.

Designed by some board game enthusiasts and some quakers, it's a hilarious affectionate parody of a quaker committee meeting. Based on the motto, "able, willing"

Each card is a job which has to be assigned to somebody, and the aim is to be assigned as few jobs as possible. You can play excuses to redirect jobs to other players.

The feel of the game was captured by an exchange something like:

A: "Someone needs to fill a seat on the peace committee. I think B's experience would make them an excellent fit for the role."
B: (reading deadpan from an excuse card) "I'm sorry, I'm in favour of war."

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