Monthly Archives: January 2012

Staying Home

Today I worked from home because my youngest son has been shaking off a bad cold the last few days and couldn’t go to school. I know a lot of people who don’t have that option, probably even most people with a desk job can’t work from their own home, and it’s nice to be able to get stuff done without having to go into the office, or to stay home while my son recuperates and not have to take the day off. It also means that I can spend my lunch and coffee breaks playing Lego or reading to my son. The rest of the day he spent huddled in a blanket watching movies and generally looking pitiful. He seems to be getting better, probably well enough to go to school tomorrow but that will be a morning decision.

I suppose it was inevitable though, after two days in close quarters with a sniffling, sneezing, coughing five year old, that I would start to sniffle and sneeze and cough myself. Maybe I’ll get lucky and wake up tomorrow feeling 100%, but I have a bad feeling that the rest of this week is going to be spent trying to shake the hacking crud.

I even managed to get enough done that I could log off a couple of hours early, and did something I haven’t done in about a week and a half — play Skyrim for a bit. I didn’t play Oblivion (the last game in the series before Skyrim) very much, but I played Morrowind for several hundred hours in all, and I don’t remember the dungeons being this expansive. I went in today just to clear out what I thought would be one little cavern for a quest, and it seemed to go on forever. The key to other types of productivity in the future, when I decide to play Skyrim, will be to set myself a time limit rather than go into it thinking “I’m just going to complete this one quest”, because the damned quest is liable to take me four hours or more. Not that I’m complaining, a little bit of leisure time is important too, it just needs to be kept to “a little bit”. Seriously though, sneaking around putting arrows into virtual people’s faces before they know I’m there sucks the stress right out of a day.

Now to get a little bit more writing done before I turn off the lights on January and do a summary of my 2012 resolution progress for the year.


Not Very Ascendant

Yesterday’s Dark Ascension pre-release tournament was a lot of fun, but we got beaten about as soundly as you can manage in Magic. Draft tournaments (where you can’t pre-assemble a deck and must throw something together out of a handful of freshly opened packs) can be fickle. We didn’t get any spectacular cards, but we assembled a couple of decks we thought might hold up relatively well, and got repeatedly hammered, going down 0-3 in our matches. We tried to make a few tweaks and adjustments between matches, but nothing seemed to be working. Whether our decks were outright stalling or simply underachieving, they were consistently under-performing our opponents.

My biggest problem at the outset was time. Since I haven’t played Magic in so long, I wasn’t familiar with any of the new cards at all. Assembling a deck in 45 minutes out of cards you know is one thing, but having to read every single one before sorting the good from the bad is a major disadvantage. In the end, I glossed over several useful cards I should have used because I’d misread them, and trying to make adjustments between games is difficult as well due to time constraints. The other issue, as expected, was the team format. It made for a much slower game play, which significantly changes the usual deck-building strategy from sealed packs. I expected to do fairly poorly, especially against currently competitive players, but it was still pretty brutal.

In the end, at least we had fun. I miss playing Magic on a regular basis, but I don’t have the cash these days to drop on new cards as they’re released. Keeping up with the game involves a whole lot of buying new cards to keep current. If you’re doing it on a regular basis, picking up a few packs here and there, it’s not so bad but it still comes out to several hundred dollars a year. Cheaper than some hobbies, but not something I can see myself doing at this point.


Dark Ascension

One of my friends suckered me into going to a release tournament for the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion, Dark Ascension. I’ll be leaving in a few minutes to meet up with him for supper, and then we’re off to the tournament. I haven’t played Magic seriously (and by seriously, I don’t mean that it was a serious affair, just that I played it one or more times a week and kept up with the new cards as they were released) in years, so I have a bad feeling that I’m going to be very rusty on some of the finer points of the rules, but I’m still going in optimistic.

To make things worse, though, it’s in a format I’m completely unused to, called Two Headed Giant, so instead of one-on-one or turn-based multiplayer, it’s a weird variant where two two-player teams share someof their resources. It doesn’t seem overly complicated, but it’s an extra subset of rules on top of the normal ones I’m rusty on, so it’s just going to be one more way for me to ask stupid questions that make it look less like I haven’t played in a while, and a lot like I have no clue at all what I’m doing.

Still, it should be fun.


The First Battle of 2012

I was outnumbered two to one, but I thought for sure that I had experience and size on my side. I fired salvo after salvo, and even repurposed a garbage can lid as a shield but the little nippers got me in the end and I was forced to surrender.

Yes, my kids kicked my ass in a snowball fight. Or rather, I kicked my own ass in a snowball fight. It turns out that being a big, slow target is not the most useful of attributes in winter warfare.

It all served to remind me about that first resolution I made at the beginning of the year, about losing weight. I’ve been focused fairly well on the other ones, but I haven’t made a lot of the adjustments needed to tackle my size this year. Today definitely reminded me of why I need to shed some pounds.

I’m not the spring chicken I used to be, but I’m not that old. I shouldn’t be getting winded from throwing a few snowballs and a quick jog around the house to avoid getting snowed by my kids. And yet that’s exactly what happened. I was out of breath in the most pitiful of ways. It was pretty pathetic.

So this week I start seriously paying attention to the food I eat. Usually when I gain a lot of weight it’s because I snack constantly, so making myself conscious of that and keeping fruits around instead of chips and cookies helps. Generally my strategy is to keep my lunches really light and snack on appropriate things throughout the say. Remembering to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator helps as well. It’s a pain in the ass to keep up, but it’s my own fault for ignoring it so long and letting it get bad in the first place, so I have nobody to blame but myself.


Tintin

The whole family went to see Tintin tonight. The kids had a great time, and I enjoyed it as well. There were a lot of scenes where science was completely thrown out the window in an effort to tell a better and more entertaining story, and I was perfectly happy to go along with it.

I read piles of the original books when I was younger, and I expected some sort of nostalgia factor, but it wasn’t there at all. Honestly, it’s been so long since I even looked at a Tintin book that I have no idea anymore whether the movie comes close to the tone of the originals. Though now my kids want to read the books, so that’s a plus.

I do remember choosing to read Tintin because he went places and did things that I didn’t get to see very much of in a lot of the other stuff that was available to me when I was younger. The exotic locales were definitely a part of the draw for me (I’d have to research it, but I don’t recall the Hardy Boys ranging very far from home). They alluded to a lot of the destinations from the books in the opening sequence, but I’m glad they didn’t have the characters randomly hopping from place to place in an effort to jam the movie full of nostalgic scenery. They did what they needed to do, where they needed to do it, and that was that.

One thing that was painfully obvious though was the lack of anything that wasn’t a white dude. There was one female character (a tertiary one) who shows up long enough for us to know that she’s a pompous bitch and she can sing (a grand total of about a minute), and then she’s gone. Seriously, there are more animals with interesting personalities in this movie than there are human females. Given the grief the books have received over the years over politically incorrect content, this is one area you’d think they might have invested a little bit of effort into.

I will say this for the movie: As someone who dislikes 3D, and finds that it gets in the way of my seeing what I want to see in a film, I didn’t notice the 3D at all in this one. You could tell that the characters and scenery had depth, but there was nothing specifically designed to poke you in the eyes. What I hate most about that all too common technique is how it reminds you in an instant that you are, in fact, watching a 3D movie. You aren’t following along with the story anymore, you aren’t there with the characters, you’re in a seat in a theater and it takes time to get back into the flow. And as a perfect illustration of my point, if I have to see another fucking preview of Journey 2 The Mysterious Island where The Rock bounces a berry off his pulsating pecs toward the screen (this makes the third time), I’m going to completely lose it. Seriously, see for yourself:

Forgetting both Tintin and Dwayne Johnson’s chest for a moment, and getting back to the writing front, clearly I was still recovering from the work panic earlier in the week and the associated lack of sleep, since I fell asleep last night in the middle of a sentence I was writing. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I write boring stuff, but not that boring, so it was another early night. At this point I have no hope of hitting my target for the month, but I can give it a bit of an effort to at least break 55,000, maybe 60,000, and then try to keep up a good stride throughout February. Make par, catch up by a few thousand, save face, all that good stuff.

2012 Resolution Progress:
43819/1,000,000 words written (4.39%)
26/27 days blogged (Target: 365/366 with 1 day anti-SOPA blackout)
12/13 Days cafeteria avoidance (No real target)


Stream of Invective

Got home to find out I have no dial tone and no Internet, likely because my provider is laying out new cable in the area and has cocked up my stuff by accident. This is just a quick post via phone to keep the blog streak going, and hoping that I can get full functionality back tomorrow.

In the meantime, distraction-free writing and some swearing. Lots and lots of swearing.


Sleeplessness, and Ice

As expected, last night I crashed at around nine, which is about four hours earlier than my normal lights out time. Good thing, too, because I got another three am call for another problem, and spent long enough on it that there was no point in trying to get back to sleep. Word count for yesterday was somewhere around 200, which doesn’t help my total for the month at all.

Tonight, I’m still feeling the effects of two rough nights of work. I’m going to get as much done as I can but something in the back of my brain keeps telling me I’d be better off giving up for the day and going to play Skyrim. I have successfully killed the voice, but I think it’s going to be another early night. With any luck I’ll have a good weekend, during which I can hopefully do some catching up and not fall even more ridiculously short of my target for the month.

In other news, I spent about an hour with a sledgehammer and a shovel trying to turn my driveway from ice rink to… well, anything else would do, really. Seriously, the ice is three to four inches thick in some places, and the rain we got a few days ago gave it a beautiful, but deadly, sheen. I managed to clear about a car-sized patch, but my driveway fits ten to twelve cars, so… I have a long way to go yet. It’s colder than I thought it was out there. My ankles haven’t completely thawed out yet but I have to go out there again to take out the trash.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something interesting to do in blog-land besides read my drivel day after day, my good friend Pat is interviewing writers over on her little part of the web. She’s interviewing everyone from no-names to just-published to award-winning writers, and if you like books you just might find something fresh and interesting to go hunting for after hearing what these writers have to say for themselves.