Frozen Landscapes and the Food That Warms Our Hearts

I have been a bit unmotivated lately. While I recorded a bit with the tripod, the footage has been sitting on my hard drive. I will hopefully upload it somewhere this coming week so I can share it with other people. At the very least, I’d like to share the videos before the end of spring, as it would otherwise feel out of place to share them. And while I haven’t been “productive”, I have been occupying my time with other things.

Season two of Snowpiercer began a the end of January and, since a few friends and I were interested in watching it, we decided to watch it together. Due to some scheduling issues (as it happens), it was only recently that we managed to start watching the show. Without going into much detail, I had some reservations. Season one was amazing, but the cliffhanger at the end left me worried that we might see a regression in state. After all, my excitement about this series is the interplay between the characters and the political aspects of the story.

So far, four episodes in, I haven’t been disappointed. It might feel a bit slow on one or two episodes, but it’s easy to see how it serves to set up the stage for the rest of the season. I can’t wait for the next time we get together to watch the new set of episodes, as I’m rather curious about what’s going to happen next.

Meanwhile, I did a Stellaris cooperative play-through with a friend. It is one of the few games that I still keep up with and, since it had an expansion released on the 15th (Nemesis), we wanted to see what was new.

The title feature of this expansion is that now you can bring the end of the universe, and everyone else is now properly encouraged to stop you. And while that aspect is good (if a bit shallow), the other changes are much more interesting to me. The introduction of fog of war changes the early game, and since now there is the concept of not instantly knowing everything about another empire, everything is a bit more nebulous and interesting. At least, that’s my first impression. We did find the changes to population growth a bit too jarring (and the developers agreed that some values need changes), but otherwise it was a great experience.

Since we were too strong to be properly fought by the AI, and we were about to end the game, we sent our entire navies to fight the other end-game crisis. We lost.

Friday’s are pizza days (for the most part), and last week’s Friday we got to eat frozen pizza. It isn’t as good as homemade pizza, but it’s still rather good. Even more so when we consider the difference in effort! As much as we like to eat tasty things, sometimes it’s alright to just throw something together and call it good enough.

However, it did provide me with the perfect opportunity to practice taking photos of food, and I think I actually managed to take a few decent ones. Or, at least, I get hungry looking back at them.

  • My father cutting a cheese and ham pizza. Three pieces of bread with butter and melted cheese on top.
  • A close up of my father cutting up the slices of the cheese and ham pizza.

I will keep practicing, as I’m sure I can figure out how to better place the lights, and which perspective is best. The biggest issue, however, is that time spent taking photos is time not spent eating…

On the next day, I ate a delicious grilled Salmon. Salmon is my favorite fish to eat, absolutely loving it in about any way I have tried it. This one had salt, garlic powder, parsley and a bit of lemon. It was great, if a bit too much, and I’m looking forward to eating it again.

The grilled salmon on a white plate. Some oil marks on the borders of the plate. Not pictured: my desire to eat it.

Finally, on Sunday 25th, we had cheesecake for dessert. This is a recipe an old friend taught us and so far hasn’t been bested by any other cheesecake I’ve tried. Sure, other styles have their own charms – and I certainly won’t refuse them -, but when I think of what a cheesecake is, this is it.

Sadly, the jam this time wasn’t as tasty as it could have been. It was a bit too sweet and had too little strawberry taste. But, considering we didn’t have any jam at home, I’m quite happy with it.

  • The cheesecake presented on a glass plate.
  • A close-up of the cheesecake.
  •  A slice of the cheesecake on a plate.

Unknown Feelings and Red Roses

This week has been quiet, to be honest. Or rather, while I have been doing things, none feel exciting to talk about. Any other week this would have been fine – sometimes it takes time for things to happen. There is a small piece I wrote that has been sitting on my drafts because it’s missing a photo and I haven’t had the chance to take it. There is a video I have been meaning to share that I haven’t reviewed nor uploaded anywhere. Yet I can’t help that this feeling is a symptom of something else. I’m perhaps afraid that I’m going to fall into another bad mood. Or perhaps there are some feelings that I haven’t really worked through.

Regardless, part of this exercise is pushing through that veil and, at the very least, remembering the things that I did do, even if they don’t seem very visible.

This week, I focused on Instagram. I have been putting off reviewing the last batch of photos I took, since I just haven’t been feeling like it. So, at least I went through some of those and added more to the queue. I also photographed a rose and I couldn’t wait to share it. I do admit to some frustration since I’m not quite sure how Instagram works, but I understand that the only thing I can do is keep working on it.

A blooming rose. Originally published on Instagram on the 2021-04-10.

I have been listening to unravel, by TK from Ling tosite sigure. I first listened to this song when watching Tokyo Ghoul months ago and I rediscovered it recently as I was looking for Jujutsu Kaisen’s OP on Spotify. I love the dynamism of the song and the contrast of his voice with the energy of the instruments. The calm intro with the lone vocals, the swelling, the energy explosion followed to a return to a heavy charged calmness on the first verse. The chorus, oh the chorus. And the rawness in his voice just before the bridge as he screams “unraveling the world”.

I could go on, but I don’t think my words could do justice to it.

Broken Glasses and Comfort Shows

A few months ago I promised a friend I would get a new lens for my camera. I made the promise because I tend to say I want to do something, but then I procrastinate on it until it no longer makes sense. We both know it, so promising it to him is a great way to make sure I actually do things. So, a few days ago I purchased a new lens for the camera and I’ve been having fun with it! I took lots of photos, and given that it’s spring and bugs are out, even tried my hand at recording with it.

That said, it hasn’t been all good with the new lens. The day it arrived I went to test it out. I wanted to try retaking some photos that didn’t come out right with my kit lens. And, because I’m… careless, as I was trying to take one of the photos, I put my glasses on the ground. One of the dogs was really excited I was about and came. He accidentally put his paw on them, and considering it’s that rough pavement… One of the lenses got scratched.

I asked my dad to attempt to save them, but sadly there wasn’t much we could do. Alas. A trip to the local store to ensure the prescription hadn’t changed and to choose a new set.

A lense from a pair of glasses. It has a scratch in it in the middle
An attempt was made to polish away the scratch, optical characteristics be damned. It didn’t succeed.

On other personal achievements, however, I did some organizing. I went through my email inbox with the intent to, at least, mark all emails as read. It took a while, and it is in no ways perfect, but certainly better than what it used to be.

Continuing the ebb and flow between good and bad, these two weeks I haven’t been in a great mood. Some expectation mismatches, is all. And as it turns out, my comfort food nowadays is just watching anime. I binge watched two up to current release through Crunchyroll. Both are from the Isekai genre, though one of them is further along than the other.

The first one was So I’m a Spider, So What?, which was really enjoyable. Half a season is currently available, with more to come after the mid-season break and I’m honestly very excited about what the next half is going to bring. I have enjoyed the main character’s arc so far, and there are hints and promises both for the other characters and the plot that I would like to see fulfilled which I won’t talk about to avoid spoiler.

The other series I binged on was That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime. It’s fun. I have enjoyed the characters and the plot. I appreciate the focus it has given to diplomacy and trade, even if at the end of the day it won’t venture too deep into the subjects. Though, beware, it has its fair share of fan service.

Finally, I ought to mention the Cookie Creams Cheesecake my mom made. A friend shared the recipe with us, praising its taste. She did recommend we use more chocolate cookies than what’s on the recipe, and I’m glad we followed her advice. The taste of the chocolate cookies mixes rather well with the lemon in the filling. Though I do prefer a creamier and cheese cheesecake, this was definitely a good change of pace!

I’d love to share the recipe, but all I have is a photo of the magazine where it was published, so instead here are some pictures of the cheesecake once it was done.

Chairs, Dogs and the Joys of Remote Work

For a while now I have been suffering from pain on my right arm – mostly focused on the wrist and hand. It comes and goes with time and, when it comes, I usually do my best to give that arm a rest. I’m pretty sure it’s related to the posture that I keep, since the chair I had been using wasn’t made for sitting for eight hours a day or more.

Thus, at the beginning of the month, I figured I had been with a terrible chair for long enough, so I decided to buy a decent one. At a previous job I used one I liked: the IKEA Markus. I figured that one would be a good choice. However, it wasn’t in production anymore (though I did find it on Ebay). Instead, I got the successor: the Järvfjället.

It’s quite nice. I love being able to rest my head on it and the way it encourages me to sit properly. I didn’t get the armrests because I figured that I wouldn’t need them as much (I was wrong), but also that I could just buy them later. Considering they are 30 euros extra, and the already high price of the chair, I think that I can be without them until IKEA opens again and I can go pick them up there.

On Friday morning, I accompanied a friend to a doctor’s appointment. It was mostly because it was her first trip on her own to that city. And, also, it’s nice to hang out even if it’s a road trip. I got to experience the joys of working remotely again because it meant that I could just attend whatever meetings I had while I waited for her to be done. I only needed a good Internet connection. To be honest, these things are making me value remote work so much more that I’m not sure I want to go back to an office again.

Finally, throughout the week I went to my garden and took some more photos. Although, to be quite honest, it has mostly been an excuse to look at something else other than computer screens. My eyes have been feeling tired and I notice that looking outside is more uncomfortable than it should be. Besides, I get to look at pretty flowers and practice some of my photography skills. I’d even say I could take pictures of my dogs if they didn’t immediately walk towards me whenever I try to take a picture.

A picture of one of my dogs getting to close to the camera. There is a spot on the camera from the dog breathing on the lense.

They are precious. I just, you know, wish they would stay still for long enough for me to take a photo of them.

Flowers, Hamburgers and Childhood shows

I’ve been meaning for quite a while to re-watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. My memories from it were probably a decade old, and I wondered if both people’s high steem for it and my own feelings would still stand after a rewatch.

In balance, it holds up. I watched it on Netflix and I believe it could use an uplift. That said, besides being 4:3 and meant for old generations of the medium, it looks good. It still sounds great. The action is still good and the story is still enjoyable. In fact, the most enjoyable parts in this rewatch are when it allows itself to go a little further and touch in the human matters such as forgiveness, or the unintended consequences of their actions, despite their intentions.

At the end of the day, however, I need to remember I changed since I watched it first. It’s clear what the target audience for the show is, and I no longer fall within it. If I’m feeling like I wish there was more to certain aspects of it, then it’s merely an indication that I should seek them out elsewhere as this show never meant to be that.

Besides watching Avatar, I also wrote about sharing. Originally, I had intended to write about the subject within one of these posts, but I believed it outgrew the scope of a review post. I’m quite happy with it, as it means I’ve been exercising my writing skills more.

A close-up photo of a pink flower. You can see cobwebs extending from the petals to the wooden branch it is on. Originally published on 2021-03-07 on my instagram profile.

I went to our garden and took some gorgeous close-ups of some of the flowers we have here. I’d love to know what they are, since I’ve been taking so many pictures of them, but for now I’m quite satisfied with admiring their beauty. At the very least, it makes me look forward to spring. And it’s thanks to those pictures that I’ve been quite keen on sharing more on Instagram. The difference that having pictures you’re proud of makes.

On sadder events, I finally accepted that I don’t enjoy Arma anymore. It’s been around 8 years of play, filled with joy, but there is something about it that just isn’t working for me anymore. I used to think I was jaded, and that it wasn’t surprising me anymore. However, while I have the experience, there is something else at play. It’s probably burn out. But if it is, it’s an unsatisfying answer. Alas, I only hope that by Arma 4’s release I am feeling like playing again. I’m quite sad I don’t get to play with the group, but it is for the best. It would have been a disservice to keep showing up despite not enjoying myself.

Finally, we tried another tasty recipe. Since we’re fans of hamburgers at home, and considering how good these look, we gave Ray’s Real Eats Japanese style hamburger a try. They are quite different from how we usually eat them, since we tend to stick to the hamburger in bun style, but that’s part of what made them so alluring. They were quite good!

Ray’s Real Eats Japanese style hamburger served with potatoes on the side.

We did have to make some compromises from the recipe as written due to missing ingredients, so we will probably make them again after we ensure we have what we need. That said, the results only make me wonder how much better it is going to taste.

Trip to the Past, and Tasty Food

I’ve been feeling a bit hopeless lately, so this exercise should help.

I’ve been stuck in Factorio. Normally I wouldn’t note the games I’ve been putting hours on, but it has been a venue to interact with other people. But, more than that, it’s been good practice at turning larger tasks easier to execute and plan projects. It’s easy for me to look at a large task and freeze because I want to plan it all, so it is very important for me to practice this skill.

On the weekend, a friend asked for help. She needed someone who had some technical expertise when it comes to web and mobile applications. At least, someone from the area who knew at least something. Now, I don’t know much about mobile development, but it is within my realm of interest. So I gave her a hand, responding to her questions and providing some insight, even if it could be boiled down to the subject matter being beyond our respective fields of expertise.

When it comes to social networks, I did get around posting a little bit more. I did mention before that I wasn’t too excited about the photos that I have selected to put on Instagram, and that certainly has been reflected in the lack of posting. Per friend request, though, I did go through some of the old photos that I have taken. It was nice to go through some of those memories.

A few years ago, for example, I took a small trip with some colleagues from work to Passadiços de Sistelo, in the northern parts of Portugal. I was also reminded of that time I wandered to the Roca Madrid Gallery, which still amuses me to this day as it was much more enjoyable than other visits I’ve done. Never expected to find myself there, and yet I don’t think I will forget.

It also provided some perspective. If you head across the river, on foot through Luis I bridge, from Jardim do Morro, to São Bento’s train station, years ago you would have found the mural pictured below.

Mural on the side of a building. It is just left of the where the metro goes underground, when looking towards São Bento’s train station from the Luis I bridge. Mural seems to be by Frederico Draw

Sadly, as the years have passed, it has decayed and it is but a former shell of how it used to look. While the city has been bustling with life (though certainly fueled by tourism more than locals), I can’t help but feel saddened by what remains forgotten on the less traveled paths. And overall, it didn’t take much pre-pandemic to find places that were in need of upkeep.

And, finally, during the week my mom and I tried a recipe for fluffy pancakes. A friend had recommended them to me, and after showing it to mom she wanted to try them. She had said that she felt like we had been eating pretty much the same, so this was a great opportunity to change.

They came out rather well!

A picture of the first attempt at making the pancakes. They are served with butter and maple syrup.

A Messy End to a Decent Week

Sunday wasn’t a good day. Some family matters that are going to be a torn in the side for some time. I am bothered by it, since these things were foreseeable, but there isn’t much else that can be done. I wish I could say I’m going to focus on other matters. With things like this, however… It dominates the mind and makes it hard to even remember the other things.

Last week I helped my friend from Spain with some university things. I’m hopeful that now that he’s wrapping up exam season he’ll go back to a decent rhythm instead of the stressful sprint he falls into during the end of semester.

I started a small project about Cryptograms as prompted by a friend’s suggestion. It’s been a great way to learn a little bit of Vue.js and tailwindcss, as most of the difficulty is in learning how the framework works instead of figuring out what I want to accomplish. Hopefully I will find the drive to pour a few more hours into it. It’s only missing the behavior to make guesses, and then loading random text from a source.

On other interesting tidbits, I found out that there is an app for contributing to OpenStreetMap. StreetComplete is an app that let’s you respond to questions about what’s around, such as whether a road has a sidewalk, or roof types, and son on. Since I’d love to rely on tools that aren’t bound to a single corporate for-profit entity, I figured it was a simple way to contribute to one. Besides, it is a great excuse to walk for a while. It’s been a long time staying primarily at home, so I’m sure I could use the movement.

I’m also quite happy that I’m now used to sharing things with people in general. I do need to get better with sharing things to people who aren’t just on my immediate circle, but looking back one year or two, it has been a definite improvement. Furthermore, it means that I have more reasons to talk to people!

Overall, while it has been a little bit quiet, I’m still feeling alright about how I’m doing with things. No picture, however, since I haven’t been sharing much over on Instagram, nor taking any.

Of Burgers and Switches

This past week was a bit of a wash, to be honest. Around Wednesday and Thursday I felt like my emotions turned off for a bit. But by Friday I seemed to be fine. It was a weird funk, to be quite honest. If circumstances were different, perhaps it would have been a fine time to spend some time in nature.

Taken in theHunter: Call of the Wild on December 17, 2020. A picture of clouds bathed in the red light of the sunset, above a small island in the distance.

Earlier in the week I ate a Duo Bacon Cheddar at home. It’s nice to, every now and then, to eat out even if it is at home. It is a small treat, and it’s one day no one has to cook. And I had been craving the hamburger, so it was really nice to get to eat it. Now I’m regretting I didn’t take a picture, however. The only downside is having to drive to the drive-through, since no one seems to deliver here, but hey. We stayed inside the car, masks on, made a contactless payment, and drove back.

Good things did happen this week though, beyond caving to a craving. So: when I was young, a neighbor used to play a point and click adventure game. For a while now, we both wanted to know which game that was. She wanted to play it, since she had found it fun at the time. I wanted to be able to put a name to the scenes I remembered from the game. I was talking to a friend about it, as we were talking about old games, and he finally gave me the answer. Turns out that I was remembering scenes from Broken Sword 2.

I figured it wouldn’t hurt to indulge in a bit of nostalgia, so I started playing through the first game of that series on discord with him watching and back-seating along. It’s been fun, even if I can only play the game for about two hours before having to take a break. The drawn art style holds up rather well, even if it means I get to play in a small window. And, on the bright side, I learned I find cryptograms fun. It’s a little bit of a taste of the cryptography, a field I doubt I’ll have to time to explore in life.

On Friday I got to make a small change in my network setup at home. I replaced the wireless extender that our Internet Service Provider gave us for one of our own, since it should be cheaper in the long run (the money we save from not renting the device should be paid back within 2 years). Because of my particular set up, however, it did mean I finally had an excuse to add a network switch. I now have the space to plug in five Raspberry Pi’s (or similar) through wired connection! So, hopefully when I work on my plans requiring more of those, I will get around plugging them in.

The network switch on its temporary residence. It’s on top of my PC case, until it’s wall mounted on a better position. Three of its ports are in use.

I also tried, unsuccessfully, to get either WineHQ or a proper Windows XP machine working. I suffered a myriad of issues and, in the end, I gave up. The game I wanted to play works on Windows 10 without many issues, and not wanting to unplug my wheel just wasn’t worth the effort I had already put in. On the bright side, I’m replaying Need for Speed Underground 2.

I’m running out of photos to post on Instagram. I have 12 left, and I admit that I’m not feeling many of them. They are alright, of course, and a few of them I’m even proud of. It’s just that I don’t particularly want to share any of them. Alas. On the bright side, I did talk to a friend about what I’d like to do with it, so I do think I will be more intentional about how I use it.

I do admit I am disappointed in myself for this week. I know I’m not supposed to be necessarily pushing myself to do more, since that’s a recipe to completely derail myself. However, I feel like looking back on what I did this week there really isn’t much that I did throughout that I am happy about or want to note. Most of it was concentrated at the end of the week, except for the burger we bought and ate.

Food, Photos, Helping Others, New Job

Lately, it’s been tough to sit down and write.

On the 20th I started a new job. I admit I’m not feeling too enthusiastic about it, but I could use the paycheck. More importantly, however, is that it is teaching me so much more about myself than I ever expected. Perhaps the most important lesson is that I want my time in this earth to be spent doing something that I find fulfilling, and not just interesting enough to work at. Sadly, I’m not there yet. I will have to figure out how to find the energy to do what I love, without falling into the pitfall of trying to fill the entire day to make the most of it.

But, hey. I found the time to sit down, so here are the things I can say I’ve done these past two weeks:

While I’ve posted less to Instagram, I still did get some new photos up. I think part of the reason I’m not excited about uploading things is because I’m just not that excited about the photos that I have ready. Perhaps, the best thing I could do is upload those so they aren’t lost to time, and get on with actually posting the ones I want. Like the one below!

Black smoke coming out of a chimney during a particularly cloudy day. The smoke fades, becoming indistinguishable from the clouds behind it. I quite like this photograph.

I also baked Petit Gâteau as an impromptu dessert. They came out rather well! I’m glad I feel confident enough to decide to bake them without feeling like it’s a huge deal. Then again, I do consider most of the recipes I have to be not that complicated.

Moving away from my creative side, I started writing a piece about an ex-friend. It’s tough, because I yearn for that which never came to be. Alas, their behavior was not acceptable, so all I can do is grieve it. It’ll take some time, if it ever becomes worthy of being shared. All in all, though, it’s something I need to write about.

I picked up The 99% Invisible City to read, after having it in my possession for a while. I think I’m now in the headspace to read it, even if it’s only a few pages at a time. Last I read is about the air vents for metros and other subterranean infrastructure, a problem I was vaguely aware of existed, but entirely oblivious to how it was solved.

Finally, I’m proud I’ve been helping people around me. Of note is that a friend was having issues with noise, since everyone is spending more time at home. I recommended him some noise cancelling headphones, and he’s been loving them ever since they arrived. I also did help him a bit with university work – at least, with what little I remember. Though sometimes, more than remembering, it’s all about being fresh and awake!

I’m hoping that this coming week I get to set up some network things at home, since we should replace the WiFi extender from our ISP with our own. I also need to sit down and figure out what I actually want to do with some of my socials. We’ll see. Life is tough, as it turns out.

Keeping Myself Accountable

Back in November, I quit my first job. It had been a long time coming, as I had been unsatisfied with my pay and the work I was doing (both in terms of rhythm and the tasks themselves). I’m lucky enough to be in the financial position where it wasn’t completely crazy to leave my job in the middle of a pandemic, and that there seems to be an endless need for software developers so finding another job didn’t seem very difficult.

At the time, I decided that December was going to be a more relaxed month. I hoped that it would serve as a way to reset myself and perhaps revert some of the changes I had seen develop in myself at the time. I was half successful: some of the changes were brought by my increase in weight and won’t go away anytime soon; others feel like something within me broke and I haven’t figured out how to fix.

Regardless, the march of time never stops. While I’m in a better place than when I took this decision, it was clear it was time to find another job. Not just because of financial reasons, but also because I find it difficult to set goals on my own and commit to them once the new project energy has worn off.

That said, one of the challenges I set for this year was to review what I’ve been doing often. There are things I want to accomplish, such as investing time in photography or actually riding my bicycle, and I’d like to direct my life towards those goals without the pressure of a hard schedule. The objective would be to review often, perhaps weekly, with the intent of celebrating and bringing to the forefront whatever steps I take towards these goals.

As such, and hopefully one of many:

A photograph I took of the clouds on a particularly cloudy and windy day. The sun is setting, silhouetting the town’s skyline and bathing in red the top of the clouds. First published in my Instagram account.

Last week, I finally got around editing some of the photos in my backlog. While there are still more to select and go through, it was nice to sort through a few of them. Plus, that means I have more photos ready to be shared! And, on that vein, I have been posting photos to Instagram when I feel like it.

I also made some changes to my CV. I had received some feedback that it was rather sparse and that it should better describe the work I actually performed, so I went ahead and was more explicit about what I did. It also isn’t as relevant anymore as I have a new job already (contract signature pending), but it’s already done for when I have to look again, so no loss.

Finally, I looked into setting up my own instance of Pixelfed. It wasn’t successful for a variety of reason, such as my own inexperience with PHP and its ecosystem, and also because I decided that the Raspberry Pi I bought would have Raspbian instead of Debian (or Ubuntu), but I gave it a fair shot. Regardless, the more I think about it the less I think it would have been a good fit for me: it still works under the Instagram model, so it isn’t particularly useful for a gallery; and having to manage it myself is ever less appealing. That said, I do still want to update my account to have the same content as my Instagram, as I’d love to support fediverse software.