Austin Gilliam

Games & Gardens


That's right — no 2022 repeat — we're getting a Q2 check-in! I've been using my new process for tracking everything I'm working on, and it's working really well. I don't feel like I'm getting as much done as I have in the past, but my output is now fairly predictable, and I'm not as stressed once I finally get to the end result.

I've also dropped one of the rules I held in the past, where I only gave myself four weeks "off" from tracking my goals — my birthday, my wife's birthday, Christmas, and a wildcard. I might have needed that in 2021 as I built the habit, but now it's more of a hindrance than a help, especially in the face of two back-to-back vacations I took in early June: one to New York City with friends, and another to visit family in St. Louis.

1 / 5
A fancy, stylized photo of Manhattan taken on our boat tour.
2 / 5
A view of the Statue of Liberty from our boat tour.
3 / 5
A look out to southern Manhattan from Summit ONE Vanderbilt.
4 / 5
A look out to Central Park and northern Manhattan from Summit ONE Vanderbilt.
5 / 5
A picture of the Arch as we arrived in St. Louis.

It was refreshing to get out of the house for a while and away from all my projects (and my work email!), and once I was back, I felt more motivated to pick it back up than I have in vacations past. But how much have I actually done?

Let's get to the Almighty List!

The Almighty List

Here's where I'm trending with each of my goals as of the end of Q2 2023:

  • Reading
    • Read textbooks from my Educational Reading List, but especially ones about software architecture.
    • Read books from my Social Reading Pile, but especially ones I borrowed from other people...
  • Storytelling
    • Try new kinds of storytelling that aren't novel writing, and share it with the world!
  • Professional Development
    • Complete online courses that I've purchased, but especially ones about Docker and Kubernetes.
    • Keep my website up to date, and iterate on the process.
  • Video Games & TTRPGs
    • Publish articles in my WorldAnvil wiki that are currently sitting in draft status.
    • Complete my Starfinder campaign, The Centurion's Riddle.
    • Play video games a few hours a week, and forget about everything else!
    • Release a mod to any video game before the end of 2023.
  • Miniature Printing & Painting
    • Print models from my criminally-underutilized Patreon/Kickstarter files.
    • Paint new and existing models (slay the gray!).
  • Health & Home
    • Continue improving and decorating the house.
    • Get away from my desk and walk around — particularly outside!

I think it's easier in this case to get all of the "trending down" items out of the way at once — finishing The Centurion's Riddle drained every ounce of creative energy that I had, and I struggled to focus on unrelated artsy projects as we brought the campaign to a satisfying end. It also meant that most of my time on the computer outside of gaming was spent preparing, so I let studying my online courses fall to the wayside. But yes, you read that right:

I finished the The Centurion's Riddle!

The Centurion's Riddle

This was the culmination of a story I'd been telling and collaborating on since 2011, split across 11 years-long campaigns and multiple GMs — a high fantasy drama with mystical godheads, reality-breaking magic, and a timeline best described as a pair of "entwined infinities". I have two email inboxes dedicated solely to this purpose, which share thousands of back-and-forth messages with my fellow players, and dozens of wikis and Trello boards containing lore from games past (which I may one day consolidate into a single source...).

The final encounter of The Centurion's Riddle, terrain crafted over the weekend by yours truly, from the foam insert stolen from a Solo Stove box.

Not all of the stories I told were my best work, but I am fond of all of them. I started playing TTRPGs to escape the world that surrounded my late teens, and through them I have found some of the best people I have ever known. Even when the story I was telling wasn't my best, they were great because of the people playing in them. If you have ever had a hand in these stories: thank you. And to my fellow Storytellers:

Glory to the All-Father, and to the legend of the Carter. Seek the Star Scribe for knowledge, and the Sculptor for creativity. Follow the Shepherd to family, and let the Dreamer guide you home. Give Names to the Nameless.

Beware the words of the Liar God.

To the Surface

Despite evidence to the contrary, I've also been spending a lot of time outside. Summer is here, and that means yard work! But it also means I have a yard big enough for a proper garden — something I've missed since moving out on my own, with apartments where I had either no or very little outdoor space to speak of. While I still hold aspirations of tearing all the grass out of my yard and replacing it with useful plants, I was convinced to start small with a 4' by 12' plot.

Our garden in mid-May of this year, just before planting.
Our garden as of the time of writing, on a very cloudy day.

Although not all survived the weeks after their planting, I think we're doing pretty good! It's also a great excuse to get outside every day, breaking up the monotony of the car-to-house shuffle. Accompanied with a worm bed I picked up to begin vermicomposting food scraps, and the roller compost bins we picked up to recycle yard waste, the slow change in the amount of trash we produce is becoming noticeable — a change I would like to continue across the rest of the house.

To the Deeps

Then it was back into the basement, for I am a Dwarf at heart, and to the rest of my motley crew of hobbies. In addition to the educational books I finished in Q1, I completed Learning Domain-Driven Design by Vlad Khononov, which has been critical to understanding some of the new challenges I've faced at work.

The educational books I've read so far in 2023.

I also finished Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and started on the rewards from Brandon Sanderson's recent Kickstarter with Tress of the Emerald Sea. I also read through Crossings by Alex Landragin (in the chronological order), and was enamored with What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher, a sort of "modern horror" retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.

The books I've read (for fun) so far in 2023.

Moving on to video games, I finished Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning after years of sitting in my Steam library, and I would say overall it was a blast. I personally didn't like the Fatesworn DLC, but I would recommend the base game to anyone who likes fantasy RPGs. I also devoured Tears of the Kingdom, sinking over 150 hours into it in the month or so after its release, and picked up Elder Scrolls Online to scratch that MMO itch. I've only completed the original main quest with the Ebonheart Pact, and am working my way through the Daggerfall Covenant, but I think its a good game for anyone who likes the Elder Scrolls franchise.

The games I've played so far in 2023.

There was also some tinkering with modding that I'm not ready to share, and some tweaks to the guts of this website, which I've switched over to generating via a Java "compiler". I know there are other solutions for this that work out of the box — I'm just having fun playing around!

Wrapping Up

I think the end of Q2 marks a big shift in my process, as I'm finally free to pursue other hobbies now that The Centurion's Riddle is complete. I look forward to painting, 3D printing, and writing, but also to playing in other games! As always, I hope all is well with you and yours, and I'll see you in the next one.