Sunday, July 23, 2017

Vacation, Valerian and Validation

The word of the week is ineffable.

July 17 – Group Goodbyes

I said farewell to my Land Mark group tonight.

What I had thought would be about a 10-minute gentle sayonara turned into a 45 minute feedback session on my leaving, which was a surprise, but not unwelcome.

Several group members voiced their reactions to my bowing out, and they had some interesting points to make, the most interesting being that they thought I hadn't considered how my absence would affect them. I had, to be honest, but I didn't think that my contributions were significant as they made it out to be, which was both refreshing and humbling.

One thing I was prepared for was disappointment, and it was evident that my leaving was not taken by several people in a better light, but so be it.

As I said at the end, I need to be doing something else: writing. Every fiber of my being, all the tension that I'm feeling, the lack of focus and the sense of invaluable time passing all pointed towards the bowing out, as I should've done at the end of June.

But that's hindsight, and now I'm just looking forward again.

July 18 – Speaking of...

Writing's about all I've been doing this week.

Getting into the flow is key, and that process for me is simply spending enough time every day to make the story stick in my head, so that when I'm doing other things I can come right back to the writing and the flow starts again immediately. I can really feel the book jelling again in my head, and I think that I should probably have taken a 'writing vacation' earlier in 2017 already.

Have you ever wondered what the heck is in everything in the world?

When I look at the Periodic Table from time to time for inspiration or for research for my stories, I wonder what some of the more exotic foreign usual elements are used for in our world. Then I found this amazing interactive table, which explains it all - so useful!

July 19 – Valerian?!?!

Such anticipation! Such excitement!

After winning passes last week, my girlfriend and I went to see Valerian( the latest movie from Luc Besson )tonight at a preview screening. I've never been to a movie preview before, and even though it was a packed house when we arrived, we managed to find two perfect seats right in the middle of the theater - yes!

Then the show began... and I got less excited.


Note the eyeballs on the left...

I went in with an open mind, thrilled that Luc Besson finally got to make his dream project of his, a miracle independent film costing hundreds of millions of dollars that only exist because so many people believed in his vision of Valerian.

Which he delivered, I have to say: visually, the film is sumptuous, with so many special effects that two major CGI companies( Lucasfilm and WETA Digital ) had to split the over 2700 CGI shots between them in order to complete all. The opening sequence was stunning and imaginative, and the rest of the film's CGI was top-notch, to the point where the line between what was real and wasn't was thoroughly blurred.

Unfortunately, that's for the romance ended for me.

The lead actors were enthusiastic but not properly cast, as they felt like the understudies who had suddenly been asked to fill the main roles and their performances were less than the film needed. Indeed, the romance between the two leads felt like two high school kids awkwardly standing at their first dance.

The story was overlong and clunky and could probably have benefited from a trip of about 20 to 30 minutes to tighten things up. It was unnecessarily complicated and the 'big reveal' of the big villain's identity was excessively telegraphed.

Was an enjoyable? Yes, to my eight-year-old self, but not my current self.

Was The Fifth Element a better film? Unquestionably, yes.

What I watch it again? Only on Blu-ray so I could enjoy the CGI effects in all their glory, and I download a 'fan cut' if it meant a shorter, tighter film.

Darn... if the film does well overall, we may get a sequel that will be far better, but tonight I went home simply thankful that the film had finally been made, and by someone who loved it instead of a hack who bought the rights only to butcher things - I'm looking at you, Michael Bay!

July 20 – Tent Rentals?

Rent in the city is still too damn expensive.

Even though the latest reports shows that Victoria's rents dropped by 5.1% in June 2017, the reality is that most rental units Victoria experience some form of bidding, especially if they're in good areas or have other desirable features.

It sucks, but that's what you get when economic growth booms in a limited geographic area: supply and demand. I'm actually surprised to see that the rents in my old stomping grounds in Niagara are so high, so all things considered, it wouldn't be much different from the living there then it would be here.

At least it's not like Fort McMurray, where back in 2014 during the oil boom, one-bedroom apartments were going for over $1700 - ouch!

So there's that.

I'm still working on my tiny house plans, having taken the first steps last week to speak to City Hall about the bylaws in place for housing and how tiny homes fit into( or don't )current standards. It's going to be a while before I can afford a home of any kind, but it's best to start early because red tape is really sticky stuff...

July 21 – Home Stretch!

As of this evening, all my novel notes have been entered!

This is an incredibly important milestone, for as you can see from the photo below there were hundreds of notes that I've been entering the last few months:

Blurred for spoiler reasons!

Now that the notes are DONE, I'll be taking the last step: a final revision.

This is a line by line at, one that is absolutely necessary from my point of view. It will let me continue refining the story / plot details, find small errors, make each of the characters distinct with their own voice, add little details for verisimilitude, and generally tighten up the novel sentence by sentence.

I estimate that I'll be able to properly revise 3 to 4 chapters a night, which means I should be done this at it by the end of July, though I'm not going to push myself too hard due to my core's inability to take sitting for too long in any one position.

It's exhilarating to have reach this point, which I had hoped to be at six months ago, to be honest, but for those of you regularly reading my blog you'll know why I've not been able to set a proper pace for faster completion.

It's been great to have this entire week to devote to working on the novel. As I said above, if I could just spend an entire month only writing and doing nothing else each day, I'm certain I could turn out a full novel in that time.

In the meantime, it's taken five years to get to this point, and I'm going to relish the feeling of being on home stretch!

July 22 – Editing Excitement!

After a full day, I've completed editing SIX chapters!

I feel incredibly good about the progress that I made, though I realize I won't be able to make as much progress during the week due to fewer hours in the evening, but today's completed amount of editing important because it shows just how well things can go in the Flow.

Being able to visualize the case at which proper editing proceeds for my book is critical, so I don't overestimate my abilities and know what I have to accomplish each evening until it's done. I'm doing my best to refine what I see and not add unnecessarily, so that the book doesn't but rather becomes leaner, with each scene balanced within its own meaning and the overall story of the book.

Once I'm done my editing in about 10 days, I'll print out a few copies of the draft and a half-dozen people look them over for any final adjustments. Considering the quality of some of the stories I've been reading lately, some would consider even a fourth draft or final revisions overkill, but in the current market, I need my book to stand head and shoulders above all others... hence the extra work.

From there, it's time to send it out to agents!

I should also note that thanks to a rearrangement of my bedding this week, I've been able to sleep more easily and without any major stomach pain. It's all thanks to a wedgie, as you can see from this picture:

Looks comfy, no?

Sleeping at a 30° angle does take some getting used to, though it's not without precedent: the Minbari from Babylon 5 slept at a 45° angle, which in the show they said was beneficial to their spiritual as well as physical health.

Who am I to argue with that?

July 23 – Last Vacay Day

I took a break this morning with my girlfriend to enjoy the beautiful weather.

After a sumptuous breakfast at The Beacon( gawd, those pancakes!!! )we went down to the Harrison Boat Pond just as the clouds vanished and the sun started blazing. There was a good crowd of about a dozen RC boaters, and among them was the group president, who had brought my PT boat back with him after working on it this week.

Left: AMAZING paint job!   Right: My blah boat...

Unfortunately, there wasn't much he could do: one motor is completely burned out and the other is on its way out to - drat! I'll have to replace both, which fortunately will only cost about $30 and take up a little bit of time two remove the old and then mount the new ones at the correct angles. It'll be great to see the boat run at full power, as it's designed to do, and once the mechanicals are up to speed, all think about adding details like paint, decals and painted crew members to bring the ship to life in all its proper WW2 glory again.

That's the nice thing about hobbies: you can spend as much or as little time or money on them as you see fit, depending on the results you want. For me, since I don't have a shop or studio of any kind where I can do model paintwork, it limits my options. I want to end up with a good-looking boat that I haven't lavished exorbitant amounts of time or money on, as in the end it's more of a toy than a realistic representation of a PT-109 boat. It just has to look good on the water, in my eyes, and it's already halfway there my opinion: it just seeing to the details.

Of course, I'd like it to be able to move on the water too... which it will, in time.

The last half of my final day of vacation, I split between writing my blog and editing. 

It was great. :-) 

It’s been a solid vacation, truly enjoyable with the exception of being in more pain some days than I’d like… but at this point it’s academic, as I’m learning what’s causing my core muscles to ache and what I can do to help them not stress out. Staycations like this seem to feel better somehow in the summer, as I can just concentrate and not worry too much day to day, since I can just step outside for a walk in a shirt anytime I need – yay!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Writing, Winning and Wonderful Weekends

The word of the week is tangible.

July 10 – Writing Retreat

After work today, I attended a brief 'Writing retreat' at a local author's house, with several other writers I'd been invited to enjoy the evening free of charge as a thank you by the organizer for helping set up several meetups between them and the membership of the writing group I help manage locally.

The evening proved to be very fruitful for me creatively, as the methodology employed was guided in simple terms around objects and ideas to foment creative thought. This proved to be excellent fodder for my imagination. I came up with about a dozen pieces altogether, of which I liked this one the most:

I really enjoyed the evening, and I'll consider going for one or two more later in the year as treats for myself once I complete the heavier lifting I need to do the next few months regarding my novels and my business.

July 11 – eReaders, for me?

Last month, my amazing girlfriend gifted me with an Amazon Kindle eReader - wow! Reading some of my hundreds of Amazon books on it has been a blast.

However, you need a light source in order to see anything on the screen, which means it's perfect in daylight and completely invisible in the dark. Seeing as even the next model up, Kindle Paperwhites, are going for around $100 CAN plus shipping on eBay, they wind up costing about the same as new ones - ouch!

But... today was Amazon Prime Day, of which I'm still a member! That meant there were sales almost everything and my heavily-crossed-fingers turned out to be lucky: new Paperwhites dropped to $99.00 for today only, the lowest they've ever been! I was able to snag one as an early birthday gift from my parents and sister, and I did a little jig in front of the TV when all was said and done. YAY!!!!!

Old one out, new one in - barely!

I also performed 'heart surgery' on my dying OnePlus One tonight.

As a new battery only cost $15.00 I decided a few weeks ago to give it a shot, and thankfully the instructions on were really easy to follow after the battery arrived in the mail today. It was a tight fit, as the new battery's cable was a touch shorter than the dying original's.

The only hiccup in the installation was that the outer case cracked along all the spots where the holding tabs were on one side, but at this point I don't care about aesthetics - there's a replacement Samsung S5 on the way, after all. I just wanted to see if I can get some more useful life out of this OPO, perhaps to repurpose it as a bluetooth controller or a smart-home control, but not if it keeps overheating.

So far, the temperatures haven't reduced significantly, and I've also discovered that the new batteries temperature sensor is defective, as it reads a constant 78.6° - useless, but at least I can still feel with my finger if the phone's too hot in my hand...

July 12 – WINNER!

I received an odd phone call at work today, close to my morning break. As it wasn't a number I recognized, I let it go and since no voicemail was left, I chalked it up to someone's wrong number and thought no more about it.

Until an e-mail popped up on my phone a few minutes later:

It said I'd won advance screening tickets to the upcoming Valerian movie next week... whaaaaaattttttttt???????? I had to rub my eyes just in case, but it was true! I've been participating in online contests for a few years now, for a few minutes every day, and I won again after a long dry spell:

I've been really stoked go and see Valerian when it opened on the 21st next week, and it's just icing on the cake now that I get to see it two days early! I'm tempted to bring along my copy of Ambassador of the Shadows( the comic that's the movie is based on )to complete the journey that my six-year-old self began nearly 40 years ago when I first read it...

July 13 – Trolling

It's easy to become distracted on the Internet. Moreso when it's subjects you care about; for me, those are things like climate change, vaccinations and similar topics that invite divisive debate.

What it also invites are trolls.

Several times in the last few months, I've made the mistake of engaging people too deeply on FBook, due to the nature of the conversational topics on several posts. I'm well aware that it's extraordinarily difficult to change anyone's mind over the Internet( to the point where I don't think there's a documented case of it happening to date )but for whatever reason in several instances, I thought the person might see reason and meet me halfway.


The arguments were like someone showing me their marble collection... except that each one is cracked in some way, and each time they plucked out a new one to 'show it off' the cracks are obvious to me, yet they KEEP pulling out new ones despite me continuously pointing out the flaws to them. It's like they can't see the flaws, and think if they just keep pulling marbles from  the bag, eventually they will be proven correct, despite the flaw in each and every one.

Mainly, I think this has to do with selfishness, as most of the the people I saw arguing against my point of view were doing so from a selfish base, a 'Why should I have to pay for others with MY money?' mentality that being a Canadian living in a socialist country, I find shallow and backwards in this modern day. Not to mention the levels of profound ignorance that were displayed by many people in general.

However, this same week, I was given hope that selflessness would win out over said self-interest, thanks to a study that found microbes with the altruistic tendencies had a much higher survival index. So the selfish microbes died out, in favour of those who shared...

So perhaps the microbes will be able to get it right when we're all gone...?

July 14 – I must go there...

After starting my week's vacation today( flex day! )I now know where I have to take a vacation in 2020...

Star Wars Land!

Revealed that Disney's D23 event today was the first look at a physical model of the upcoming Star Wars Land being built at both Walt Disney World( FL )or Disneyland( CA), of which the latter is far closer and more likely for me to be able to get to... grinning like a kid all the way.

Here's a 7 minute tour of the model with one of their Imagineers:

As well, there's a series of amazing close-up photos of the model, showing all the various parts: ships, rides, shops and more, all set in the Star Wars universe.

As icing on the cake, there will be a Star Wars hotel available as well, which purports to be a 'totally immersive experience' which I would love to immerse myself in, if the cost wasn't pegged at around $1000 USD per night's stay. 

Ouch. *sad Wookie howl*

July 15 – Eclipse Returns!

Whoa... it's been five months since I last played a game of Eclipse, which I think is far too long! Fortunately, my friend Chris was open to playing just such a game today along with my lady and our friends Cara and Greg - yes! As a point of interest, I noted last time that we could have up to eight players but I was mistaken: we can actually have up to nine and considering that it takes about an hour per player to play the game, that's really not that bad.

2.5 hours in, things are getting interesting...

We started the game at 3:30 PM and the first five rounds so everyone do typical empire-building, though you can see from above that my empire( green ) had quickly become stymied by a wall of powerful Ancient ships that I didn't have the firepower to overcome easily. The cost would have been just too great, so my expansion was stopped dead one way and the other way saw me hit some dead ends in terms of exploration; again, not good.

After the 'saggy middle' of the game was passed, things really heated up in terms of fleet purchases and technology research, both key factors to creating big nasty swarms of spaceships to go and smash your enemies with.

Which didn't happen much until last couple rounds of the game:

Greg sported the same colour shirt as his empire: dedication!

As you can see from the picture above, major fleet actions in the last round were underway: My newly-purchased fleet in the bottom-left had repelled an attack by Chris' white fleet, and the other major battle of the game took place between my lady( in black: Borg-esque! )and the fleets of both Chris and Greg( red ). Action!

In the end, though, resistance was futile: my lady won with a score of 31 Victory Points, her total points over 13 higher than anyone else. She really knows how to play the right strategies, but the rest of us are learning quickly...

July 16 – Me Day!

Today was a perfect birthday.

I slept rather well last night and woke up somewhat refreshed, in part because I'd had another massage session yesterday morning that really helps to loosen up my far-too-tense abdominal muscles: I didn't wake up at 4 AM in pain, so huzzah!

Even Google got in on the act... is that good?

After a relaxing breakfast with my lady, we both headed down to Harrison's Yachy Pond for a bit, to test out the pair of new batteries that I received several weeks ago after a two-month wait( from Turkey, of all places ). It turned out that one of the batteries was defective, and to add insult to injury, my PT boat's control system started malfunctioning to the point where it wouldn't run properly. Luckily, the president of the RC boat club took an interest in my difficulties and generously offered to take the boat home to work on himself. I was thrilled at the offer and I'll have to think up a suitable thank you for him when I see him next.

Then it was lunch time with my parents and girlfriend( my sister's off in Calgary this week for a much-needed break with friends ). We went to ReBar downtown that bastion square, which was packed with people enjoying the gorgeous weather, perfect for the annual Busker's Festival taking place this weekend in Victoria. The food was excellent( I had a veggie burger with mushrooms and Swiss cheese - yum! )and the place had a funky vibe that we all liked, so we'll most likely be back sooner rather than later. My lady then took me out for ice cream over at The Beacon Drive-In, where we got into an intense discussion of my novel's characters, which I absolutely loved and tried my hardest not to give away any spoilers!

Back home, I got a few more things done, then relaxed for a few hours, watching a few episodes of Tron:Uprising online - a wonderful show that's extraordinarily hard to get a hold of, as it's not out on DVD or Blu-Ray, and I don't care to purchase it from iTunes, as I consider Apple's service an evil I don't wish to foist on my computer anytime soon. Ironic, considering the subject of Uprising...

Yes indeed, a pretty solid week that I couldn't wait to end, so I could be on VACATION! A working vacation, mind you, where I plan to make great strides EVERY day to finish editing my novel. I won't have another chance like this in 2017, so I'm going to make the most of it!