I used to write a lot of flash fiction over on my woefully neglected writing blog, and it sort of bothers me more to see that blog go without updates more than this one. The thing is, I do write a lot, it’s just all long-form now. Maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to say that I’ve lost the ability to write short-form – everything just turns into a short story now. I tried posting chapters from my novels there before, but it’s impossible to keep up with edits and doesn’t feel worth the effort.
I’m writing about this here just because I’ve been thinking about it lately. I sort of miss my little 500-word inspired-by-a-song stories, even if they were too fleeting or kinda pointless. Flash fiction gave me the opportunity to write a lot of things I wouldn’t normally write about – main characters that I don’t normally create, situations that are outside of the usual young adult formulas.
There’s a line in a song that I’ve been listening to for a while now that gives me that vibe that I used to get when I’d write stories based on songs. I keep thinking I want to do something with that, but then I’m over here writing a story about espers and coronal mass ejections that takes up 100% of my writing time.
Anyway, I just wanted to get that out there. I’d say to expect updates there (and here) going forward, but I can’t make any promises.
Life has been pretty hectic for the past month or so, and things aren’t going to slow down back to normal soon, but I feel like I’m at least over the most difficult (foreseeable) part. That doesn’t really account for the apparent four month gap in posting here, but, you know, blogging isn’t at the forefront of my mind.
One of the things I never got a chance to blog about was my new gaming PC build. If I’m being totally honest, the machine I built in 2015 was still perfectly fine, especially with the GPU upgrade I did last year. However, with the release of the new Ryzens, I got the itch. Last year I got the same itch because I wanted to downsize my tower, but managed to hold off, so this seemed like as good a time as any to do a new build.
I originally tried to build the smallest PC I could with a full size GPU and an AIO liquid cooler using a Dan Case A4. That turned into a cabling nightmare, so abandoned that idea, sold the Dan Case, and went with a bigger mini ITX case, the NZXT h200. I am not normally a fan of cases with windows, but I decided to give it another shot. The jury is still out on how much it’ll annoy me when dust starts to build up, but I put substantial effort into cabling, thoughtful layout, and tasteful LEDs. The messiest thing about the build are the AIO pipes, but there’s only so much I could do with them.
Visiting Japan has always been a dream of mine. The “About Me” page that I used to host here listed Japan as my dream vacation for around a decade, and before that, I can probably trace the roots of that desire to at least age 14 or 15. It started with anime (and video games, to a lesser degree), and evolved over time into a deep appreciation for the country and its culture. Getting to finally go this past month was an incredible experience that I hope to be able to have again without waiting another 18 years.
I’ve flown internationally only once before, but flying to Central America (and Canada, I would assume) is quite different from a transpacific flight. Our flight to Belize was a regular six-across Southwest 737 (or something similar). Flying to Japan was a wildly different experience. We flew ANA (All Nippon Airways), which is a Japanese airline, and while we were economy class, it was the nicest economy seat I’ve ever flown in (10 seats across also makes it the biggest). If you ever get a chance to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend this airline based on my one experience with them.
We flew into Haneda airport, got through customs, swiped ourselves through the monorail station (more on that later), converted a small amount of cash to yen, and that’s about how long it took me to make my first mistake. Everyone in Japan stands on the left side of the escalator, and there’s either another standing line or people walking on the right. I stood on the right, like a dumb American, and blocked people from walking. Whoops. Didn’t make that mistake again.
Japan is very orderly, something I really love about it and missed immediately when we landed back at our home airport and had to contend with American escalator “etiquette,” by which I mean one person taking up the whole moving walkway at RDU. It’s not just escalators, either. Most people always kept to the left side of the sidewalk, just as it’s sort of standard to keep the right side here in America, but people aren’t always great about.
We found our way to the hotel, which I knew would be small, but wowzers, was that jarring to actually see in person. If you are claustrophobic, you may not want to stay in a standard Japanese hotel room. I am not joking when I say that the open space in our hotel bathroom was as small as one of the bathrooms on the airplane. The room was just a place to sleep, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was one of those things I was kind of done with toward the end of the trip (and there are very few things on that list).
The Japanese train system was very interesting. It’s one of those things I think I would hate if I lived there (due to rush hour), but as a visitor, it was incredibly convenient. You basically just put the English Suica app on your iPhone (or get a physical card if you’re an Android user or a Luddite), add some money to it, and swipe your phone on the terminal when you enter and exit a station. We probably spent about $10/day on travel, which is super reasonable, and there was a station a two minute walk from our hotel. Rush hour (and I would assume the last train of the day) was not a super pleasant experience though. Trains are so packed that people push in like sardines (still somehow in a very polite way) and brace themselves against the door frame until the doors close and their place on the train is secured.
Dining in Japan was really interesting for a couple reasons. Many Japanese restaurants have ticket systems when you walk in. You select what you want on the machine, pay, and you get a ticket that you hand to a person behind the seating area. The meals we had were generally inexpensive (some of my favorite stuff, like chicken katsu curry, was only around $7) and there is no tipping in Japan. We didn’t go to any fine dining places, but I generally felt like America could learn a thing or two from how the Japanese handle casual dining.
I couldn’t possibly give a daily play by play, but we got to visit a lot of incredible places, went to a bunch of neat shops, and ate some delicious Japanese food (some of which is not available here and I miss terribly). I’ll let the pictures do the talking here. WordPress’ gallery system is a little weird, so I’d recommend just scrolling down rather than clicking a picture and looking at the slideshow view (the portrait orientation pictures are stretched in that mode).
This trip was such a wonderful experience, I really can’t wait to go back. If you have the means to go to Japan, I’d highly recommend it.
I’ve been trying to keep up with blogging, and it’s been a little difficult, but I’m still doing better with updates lately than I have last year or probably the year before.
So, what has been going on?
I have a new favorite king cake (Cannata’s gooey butter amaretto cream cheese (*insert chef’s kiss here*).
I finished my anime rewatch spree (True Tears was about how I remembered it – fun ride, disappointing end).
Apex Legends has been a ton of fun, but I’m really looking forward to them adding more game modes
My goal to read more often feel through in a spectacular fashion, so I guess I am replacing it with “play Beat Saber for 30 minutes five times a week.”
We are going to Japan soon (I fly a lot, but I’ll admit having quite a bit of anxiety over this long as heck, trans-Pacific flight).
I still want to write a sort-of-review about the 2018 MacBook Pro, because I definitely have some things to say about specific aspects of the machine, but I don’t feel like writing a full review. Also, I’m sure the Japan trip will warrant its own post at some point.
Editing on Reiterate is going kind of slow. I’m at the point where I’m getting burned out on it (it happens when you’re reading and re-reading and re-re-reading), but I did I take a small break in between to write something new, which can be found in my last post. I was shooting for April or May to be done, but I can pretty much guarantee now that April won’t happen, and May probably won’t either. I’d rather be sure it’s the best it can be, though, so I’ve gotta finish my due diligence on it.
I feel like I started off 2018 with some lofty goals and at least two of those crashed and burned, but I did release my fourth novel, Iterate, this year, and I also wrote the rough draft of its sequel, Reiterate. I also managed to blog quite a bit this year, even if that wasn’t terribly apparent until a few weeks ago if you only followed this blog. This year was also the first time I traveled internationally, which was a super cool experience.
As for what’s in store for 2019, I’m not sure yet, but I have some ideas. 2018 made it pretty apparent (if it wasn’t already) that Facebook is a scummy company, so I’ve been trying to make sure it’s less a part of my life than it has been in the past. I deleted the Facebook app weeks ago and the messenger app more recently from my phone and my iPad, but I admittedly did not delete (Facebook-owned) Instagram. I do still visit Facebook in a web browser on my computers, but it’s far less often, and I don’t particularly miss it. Through 2018, before I ever deleted the apps, I slowly began to scrub my data from the platform, removing likes, interests, personal information, demographics, etc, even though it feels like a waste of time since I have very little doubt that Facebook retained that data internally. Even if you’re not on Facebook, they’ve got a shadow profile on you. This is completely aside from the fact that for the past two years, I’ve had to unfollow dozens of people to remove crappy opinions from my timeline (note for the uninitiated that unfollowing someone means you’re still Facebook friends, you just don’t get that person’s updates anymore. If that sounds crappy to you, that’s because it is). Anyway, less Facebook in 2019.
On a similar note, I am also trying to cut back on Google services right now and in 2019. I definitely trust Google more than Facebook, but the fact of the matter is that when you are the product instead of the customer, the data that these companies collect on you is not insignificant, and that type of data is a target for misuse, theft, and exploitation. I’m not saying that a company having data on you is bad, but rather, this is a judgement call on two particular companies who haven’t proven super reliable lately. People have been really upset about Apple’s price hikes this year, and while I do think some of that negativity is justified, I also believe that their privacy-first approach not only warrants a certain price premium, but is exactly part of the reason why some of their competition is cheaper (the data Google collects has monetary worth, thus it makes sense for them to provide their products at a lower cost to get them in more hands).
Tech stuff aside, I probably followed more podcasts in 2018 than I ever have, which has been great, but I feel like I have been missing out on music for a while now, so I may try to make music a little more important in 2019.
As for goals that actually take effort, I want to try to read more in 2019. This may come as a shock to hear from a writer, but I just don’t find a whole lot of time to read novels (most of my reading is random stuff on the Internet). My biggest issue with reading is finding time that I’m not mentally exhausted to pick up a book. During the week, my brain is on constantly from the time I wake up until around 5:30 PM, so when I get home, I just need to shut down and watch TV or play a game or something. If I read when I am mentally exhausted, I end up reading the same paragraph three times because I just can’t absorb anything. I used to read every day during my lunch break, but now I use that time to write, which consequently means that even during my break, my brain is still very much turned on and not resting. I realize that a lot of people find reading to be relaxing, which I won’t disagree with, but it does require a certain level of engagement. For that same reason, I can’t do audio books because reading is something I need to give 100% of my attention to. I have no idea why my brain is fine with listening to podcasts, but is unable to focus on an audio book. So, I’d like to find some time to maybe read a book per month in 2019. That’s not incredibly lofty, and there are two books I’ve got on my list right now anyway.
Finally, I do have more international travel coming in 2019. This is less of a goal and more just a cool thing that I’m looking forward to.
I hope 2018 has been to great to everyone and that 2019 can be even better!
I recently heard two very conflicting viewpoints on Facebook. On a tech podcast, a host said that kids today call Facebook “the old people app,” which is something I’ve been hearing for a while. But a colleague told me that from what he’s seen administering a Facebook group, there’s actually tons of kids on it. He believes Facebook skipped a generation, since there was, no doubt, an age group for a while that shunned Facebook.
Honestly, I’m inclined to believe my colleague over the tech podcast considering that tech journalists don’t live in the real world. I wish the tech podcast was right (and maybe they are, I haven’t looked into it), but regardless, I guess that’s enough intro to what that post is about.
About a week and a half ago, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. There are quite a few reasons, but the gist of it is A) I’m tired of seeing people’s crappy political opinions and B) Facebook as a company is an untrustworthy trash heap, and I want less of it in my life. I’m not deleting it entirely (I still check it on my computer/iPad, just not on my phone), and I still have Messenger and Instagram on my phone (at least, for now).
I have, over the course of a couple years, been drastically reducing how much I post on Facebook, now I guess I’m just looking at it less too. I wish I could get rid of it, but I feel like I need it to keep in touch with certain people and to (don’t laugh) promote what I’m working on, aka, my novels, blogs, etc.
So, anyway, I do still post a lot on Twitter, but that platform is usually pretty vapid (that’s not an insult, I like having a platform that is just stream-of-consciousness for mostly unimportant thoughts), so I was thinking maybe I could start blogging more often and just get a plugin for WordPress that cross-posts my posts to Facebook and Twitter (rather than doing it manually). I suppose I’d still be giving Zuck data that way…I’m not sure that I care too much about links to my own site though. Besides, as I’ve heard it put best, if you’re not on Facebook, Zuck still knows everything about you from the you-shaped hole in your friends’ accounts.
My attention has been divided between this blog and a couple others (the bottom two on the side bar over there –>), but if you’ve been paying attention to those, you’ll probably notice that my activity on those has waned as well. Most of my writing focus lately has been going toward the sequel to Iterate, which is actually coming along pretty well, but I’ve been sorely lacking in posting personal/life updates here, so I guess it’s time to do that.
I’ve been wanting a new laptop since the beginning of this year, and for the first time, it’s not because there’s a laptop out that I want. Quite the opposite, it’s because I feel ready for a more powerful laptop than my 2015 12″ MacBook, but the problem is, there is literally not a single laptop on the market that I want.
I usually default to buying a MacBook when it comes to laptops because Windows laptops are kinda terrible, but I’m just not the biggest fan of Apple’s current laptops. Now that they’ve updated the Pro models with a Touchbar and didn’t bother with the non-Touchbar version, which is literally the only laptop I’m interested in from them, they’ve just totally lost me. But even before that update, I had given up and gone over to the Windows world for a laptop, and let me tell you, that market is a total and complete mess.
This is probably the wrong place for me to get into the details since I have a tech blog, but I’m gonna do it anyway. The issues boil down to a combination of some (or perhaps all) of the following:
Poor trackpads, aka, “Does this laptop have a glass surface with Windows Precision drivers?” This is a dealbreaker – don’t buy a Windows laptop that doesn’t have this if you plan on using the trackpad.
Poor customer support/lack of local support options/quick turnaround for issues
Build quality, including case flex (does the chassis give when you press down on it) and screen flex, which I was horrified to learn was an actual problem in the Windows laptop world (can you tell I haven’t purchased one in a while?)
Noise tests (how loud do the fans get?)
Poor quality speakers (no one comes close to Apple here)
I pity anyone shopping for a Windows laptop. I bought a Razer Blade 15 and returned it because it simply wasn’t worth the price tag for the heat/noise it generates. And heck, now I feel bad for the pros that went out and bought the new i9 MacBook Pro, because I guess those are throttling hard (7-25-18 update: Apple has apparently fixed this with a software update yesterday). But, at least if you want a Touchbar (or don’t mind paying the premium for one), you can buy a pretty decent 13″ or 15″ Core i7 model…so I guess that’s something.
Anyway, I gave up on that and instead just focused on my desktop. I mounted a monitor arm on the wall next to the sofa, so now I can easily use my desktop while relaxing. I also bought a GTX 1080, which I installed yesterday, so hopefully I’ll be set for another 3 years or so with that (my GTX 970 was just over 3 years old, and honestly would’ve still been fine had I not gotten into VR or wanted a 144Hz 1440p gaming monitor…).
I guess on that note, I’ve been playing a ton of Fortnite, so if you want to play together, hit me up on my mobile (that’s a little old person humor for you, the joke is that I’m old; social media is fine). Oh, if you don’t read my tech blog, I guess I should mention that VR is awesome, and I’ve been playing Beat Saber almost every day since I got my VR headset. It’s really cool, and the most fun I think is truly to be had with the games that are designed for VR rather than shoehorned to fit VR. Fair warning about it, though: I don’t have issues with nausea (the headsets are super fast and responsive these days) but some people still get motion sickness.
Anyway, here’s to hoping Apple releases a good laptop without a Touchbar that has at least a current generation Core i5 sometime in the next year so I can buy one. Sigh.
I have been neglecting my blog for a while now (this one, at least. My writing blog has been quite active). Realistically, I don’t ever expect myself to be as active on this site as I used to be, thanks to Twitter, but I don’t really like seeing these huge gaps in time between posts. I’d like to try to blog at least once a week, but I think once every couple of weeks is more realistic, especially with other projects I’ve got going on.
What projects? Well, a while back I decided that I wanted to take writing more seriously, so besides actually writing stories, I’m working on turning philipdistefano.com into my author portal, rather than having it just redirect here. I recently finished writing a novel (it’s a shorter one, just barely over 52,000 words pre-edit), which I’m in the process of editing, so I plan on having the site ready for whenever I get that published. Last time I published something, I made some mistakes that are rather apparent to me now (yay hindsight), so this time, I’d like to do it correctly and see how it goes in comparison.
Since my last post here, I’ve acquired quite a few new gadgets that I’d really like to talk about. My friends and I were doing a tech podcast, which was my outlet for that sort of thing, but that project died, so I guess it’s back to writing about it here.
Also, McElroy brothers references incoming. That is all.