Today was very largely filled with chores to finish before we leave. As a result, we didn't do much during the first half of the day. I ended up flipping a coin on what to do, determined that heads would be my novel, and tails would be Starcraft. It was heads, so I actually did work on the novel, and even managed to finish the chapter! (I also organized my Discover and Download files, the stuff I've been gathering from The End, and gave it a listen-through.)
I know repetitions here and there (not to mention, potential inconsistencies) mean I'll need to give it a rewrite...but I was very happy with my writing. (I even think I managed to maintain a lot of neutrality, in spite of the descriptors I used, while keeping it interesting.) The small details that fill the world, the subtle implications I want the reader to pick up on, and especially the characters and how they interact (all while keeping it ambiguous how you're supposed to feel about them, while probably still making you feel the way I want you to about them), it's all there.
...Now, mind you. I had to get out the old, ancient dictionary, and lug it across the house and fit it awkwardly next to me. If you were to measure it cover to cover, I'd estimate somewhere between half a foot at absolute minimum to maybe up to a foot in depth. (I don't think it's quite that long, but...well, it's about the biggest book you'll ever see. Think combined thickness of all three LOTR books put together, or maybe three of the earlier Harry Potter books. THICK!) This, in addition to its book dimensions. (Slightly shorter and thinner than 8.5"x11" printer paper, but in that range.)
It weighs a ton. Big, freakin' huge doorstopping treekiller of a book. That type of unabridged 50-year-old dictionary. It was needed to break up the monotony, but it was such a huge pain to deal with. Google's so much easier. But it got the job done! I'm extraordinarily-pleased with the results.
There was that, and then we played some more Gauntlet. We beat the trees, again, but decided not to take on the Queen, given our strength. (Rather, lack thereof.) We fell a bit short on both the golden feathers and yellow crystals, so played the second sky level, which I was hoping would fill our needs. It did.
So off we went to the desert realm...and on the first level, found ourselves overwhelmed. (Hey, remember how we were outclassed against the trees? Gee, we sure didn't! So we took on enemies that are even harder!) Attacks from all directions, and the level 40-45 (somewhere in that range) mage and jester were taking 2-3 hits to take out ankle-biters and the lowest-leveled grunts. (For reference, lowest-grunts should take one, second-level grunts two, and third-level grunts three. If they take less, you're above level for that area. More, and...yeah. You should grind more.)
2-3 hits. For anklebiters. And grunts. Then there's archers, bombers, level 2 grunts, level 3 grunts that shoot at us, and a near-constant stream of Generals and Golems, far, far in excess of the norm, not to mention, the extreme overabundance of traps. (Mind you, traps are annoying enough with one player. With 4, uncoordinated, screen-stretching, greedy players, they're the main source of health depletion...and this level was choked FULL of them, everywhere.)
Certainly didn't help that most of the treasures were worthless, most of the food poisoned, barrels and chests had deaths and bombs a plenty, potions rare as they were kept getting shot, keys were not being provided as often as needed, and other such various misfortunes. (Including an unfamiliarity with the level.)
...We lived, but we lost so much health, and therefore gold as we replenish it in the shop, that we deemed it impossible to continue. Not after the beating we took. We got the runestone of the level, but could manage no more than that. The level had a ton of unclaimed treasures we missed, which we could tell from the switches we occasionally tripped and the hints and the fact that enemies kept shooting at us even at the exit portal. It's just that when we found it, we decided to go, "screw it, not worth the trouble!" and just exited.
So, realizing we were underpowered and short on gold, we began farming bosses. First the Liche, then the Dragon, who we determined to be the best for our purposes, thanks to discovering block's effectiveness, the dragon's relative ease, and also, relatively high payout in consistent terms. (All silver, and silver's worth an even 1,000 god if I recall correctly.)
We did it twice, but before we could save the second, the power was disrupted (we have a poor system set up; that was a frequent complaint of my sisters), and that killed our mood for it. So next up was an Age of Empires game. After quite a lot of discussing (and determined to break the every-other pattern), we selected Mediterranean, 4v1v1v2, on Hard I believe, and surprisingly?
I won. My brother was the MVP of our team, and the gap not too huge between him and me, but I actually won! I had the high score of the game, and beat him in every field except military. (Albeit not in every subfield, though in many I was right up there with him and him not always right up there with me.) I got it by having an absolute powerhouse of an economy. Conveniently protected on both sides again (a common trend between Starcraft and Age of Empires games; for some reason, my allies always seem to be in more direct contact with them by sheer chance), my main concern was a naval attack which never came. I did, however, retain a respectable military when building said powerhouse economy, enough to give some measly help to my brother when he was attacked and to defend myself when a couple of rogue enemies killed some of my villagers.
Ultimately, thanks to capturing a relic, building nine castles (the next-highest I believe was 5; the average was two castles per person), having dozens of trading carts and cogs, and hundreds of villagers working resources (no, literally; my villager high was 111), I had a dominance over the game. My older sister did take some heat from the top-computer because they wanted to go through her to get to me, but not for long, since I built my forces up rather rapidly.
My military wasn't as impressive as normal, but was large all the same: 20 crossbowmen (for garrisoning purposes in my most forefront Castle, since again, I love leapfrogging), about a dozen longswordsmen (my initial defense force, and ultimately, bodyguards for the villagers building the latest castle), 30 paladins, half a dozen elite tarkins, and replacement forces I never used. Add in half a dozen Galleons and ten bombard Galleons, and I did quite a lot of damage, albeit not as much as I could have done.
I also think one reason I managed so well is that I hid my tell. Atheism was the last thing I researched, meaning that by the time I was asked "What are you doing?" (the immediate response upon the completion of my research), I had done all I could and was ready to end the game. I also can attribute some of the success to branching out. I made additional town centers, and surrounded them with farms. I had my loggers make lumber camps nearer to wood, and made sure that they always had forests to cut down. I mined my area dry, and was looking into mining my dead enemies when the game ended. It's a trick the NPCs seem to have mastered, and I think I was actually playing a lot like one. My brother I've noticed has done some of the same, so in a sense I was also copying him, but doing it better.
There's a final noteworthy, and perhaps even hopeful, thing to report from today: we took a look at the drawing book we gave our grandmother as a Christmas gift (she's who we're visiting, alongside our grandfather. She's had a couple of major strokes, half a dozen minor ones, and apparently was already showing symptoms of senior dementia before then according to my parents), and the results were surprising.
In it, we found a coherent drawing of a butterfly on a flower (more or less), and if that was her rather than her caretaker, then that level of motor control is incredible. (I don't know her exact age, but my grandfather is 90 years old, so she can't be that much younger than that. My understanding is that she was a bit of an artist when younger, so it apparently runs in the family, as both my sisters draw and I, of course, also do it.)
She also, several times, wrote in coherent cursive. The words she put down aren't as encouraging, given that it was hypothesized they're her writing down her direct thoughts as they happen (she can sometimes speak, but does so very weakly and basically using monosyllables). One said, "And confusion and confusion again", and there's plenty referring to washings, presumably referring to the baths she's given by her caretaker. My father, her son, doesn't think it means anything. My mother (as well as myself, though I didn't say so) does. I'd know, too. It's what I'm doing now, just in a more basic, primitive level. As her caretaker (and sometimes, my grandfather) says...I now hold hope that there's more alive of her than we'd previously assumed. Just...weakly.
Anyway, as the night before departure, I should be staying up all night, but there's not much I'm in the mood to do. So, instead, I'll make a to-do list:
-Get my phone back in the shoebag. (My makeshift purse.)
-Retrieve Starcraft material and pack it.
-Retrieve new games, Tae Kwon Do bag, and other Christmas gifts.
-Make sure I get my headphones, mouse, and pencil packed.
-...After I make an entry tomorrow morning.
-Pack my laptop.
-Pack my pills, along with my comb, toothbrush, and whatnot.
-Double-check that I have all my clothes: pants and jackets in particular are a priority.
-Also, once home, finish Guardians of the Galaxy on TVTropes. (...One of these things is not like the others.)
There's probably more, but that should be everything. I end up with 5-6 things I carry on person (backpack, suitcase, pillow+blanket, shoebag, personal former-clothesbag, and maaaaaaybe but hopefully not actual usually-packed-by-mom clothesbag), so it's generally not too hard for me to remember stuff. Doesn't take too terribly long, either. It's mostly ready already. Just a matter of quickly throwing it all together.