Sunday, February 18, 2018

Love, Late Learners and Losing People


The word of the week is intangible.

Feb 12 – Fuzzy Feet Feelings

When I first started this blog, I promised myself three things I would do: I wouldn't repeat myself intentionally, I wouldn't use it as a forum for complaints, and I wouldn't talk about socks... because making much of the mundane means that you've run out of things to talk about in a meaningful or interesting way.
 
Well, I'm reserving the last stipulation for today, as this is too amazing NOT to share. John's Crazy Socks is the kind of brilliant company we should all aspire to be a part of, and not just because our feet would be warm and cozy:
 

 

Feb 13 – Aliens, The Ride?
 
As many of you know, I'm a fan of the Aliens series of films, though the third installment isn't exactly on my rewatch list. The universe the films inhabit is extremely well-thought-out, and I thought today I'd share some of the incredible things that have been created inside its imaginary boundaries. First up is a WILD ride through Aliens: The Ride... as a roller coaster:

 

This second clip shows how the fantastic roller-coaster sim above was made, which I think also illustrates the dedication and talent of Aliens fans:



Then we have The Making of Aliens, which has incredible details about the film's production that show the gobs of hard work and forethought put into its creation:



Finally, we have the full cinematic walkthrough of Aliens: Colonial Marines, the  game, which plays out much like its a cool new film in the franchise:


 



Feb 14 – Love

I feel damn lucky in love, I tell you.

Here I am, an older guy with little relationship history to speak of, and yet I've managed to find the singular woman on earth who fell for me, just as I am. Truthfully though, she found me, and she's a thousand kinds of wonderful... It's like hitting a hole-in-one from the far side of the solar system, and a million other metaphors describing what having the nigh-impossible happen feels like. 

Here's what she made me this Valentine's Day, hanging in front of my Golden Wall of Happy at work - a fabric heart with an original poem she composed:
 
I think of those as Golden Tickets on the wall...

What amazes me about how we met is that we were both pursuing our interest in writing, and that brought us into the same place at the same time: the local writing group that I'd just started attending the previous year and which I now co-run. Just like that, our mutual love of the written word led to love in the real, and I couldn't be happier about that fortunate coincidence!  

Which also brings up pet names in relationships: why? I found this an interesting read about the subject, and while I don't use pet names myself( apart from sweetheat, my love and other endearments )it's a great insight into how relationships work at that level.
 

Feb 15 – Passion Pursuit

Doubt is a writer's constant companion, day in and day out.  

Aside from Imposter Syndrome, one of the things you worry about as a writer is "Am I improving, or am I just fooling myself that I can make it?" which often enters a doubt-feedback-loop when you're slogging away alone without anyone noticing: no publications, just rejection and a slow crawl towards your goals.  

This week I came across another writer's experience on being a writer late to the game, and about having a belief in oneself that's unshakable in the face of doubt: 
 

The key takeaway:
The bottom line to this is significant for all of us: We’re smarter than we think. Don’t give up on an ambition, or a passion, because you think you can’t pull it off. You do not want to get down to the final years of your life and wonder what you might have achieved if you’d tried.

I'm persistent, and I forget that as long as I'm still moving forward, my goals are still in reach: I just have to persist, and not give up. The small encouragements I receive from friends, family and especially other writers, published or no, keeps me going.

Write on!


Feb 16 – Gun Horror

NOTE: Skip this entry if you don't want your week spoiled.



 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

Valentine's Day this year was a horror show for the students at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida: a student shot 17 of his classmates dead and wounded many others in the 18th mass shooting in the USA in 2018 - one every two days.  

Apart from the tragic aspect of the shooting, one thing has stood apart: anger, leading to action. The students of Stoneman High aren't stepping back from the cameras, but rather looking INTO them and screaming for answers, as well as action, from the US Government to address the ever-present fear of guns in America. I've spoken about this before, regularly, and been disturbed by the reactions; one in particular from a friend of mine stood out, where I was told to 'man up' after expressing my fear of travelling to the USA due to the incidence of gun crimes.  

Man up... really? 

Is that what the students of Stoneman should do to deal with what happened? "So sorry all those kids were killed and wounded, but you really need to Man Up: it's just the price America pays for Freedom, you know!"  

 Fuck that assinine statement, to which I say:
 
These are just a fraction of the images appearing this week in the USA re: Gun Control

I've examined this subject for years, while I could go on at length, I believe a big part of the solution is dealing with repressed white male rage, as well as the easy availability of guns in the USA, as this image shows comparatively:
 

I'm worn out from caring this week, about a neighbouring country where a good number of my friends live, and that I'd like to travel more of, at some point.  

But not when there's a likelihood that I won't come back alive.


 
Feb 17 – Big Debt = Tiny Home Action!

I talk about tiny homes a fair bit, but it's just talk, while other folks are making their dreams a reality. Such is the case of a young couple right here in Victoria, who decided to change their lifestyle completely in order to get out from under a crippling $90,000 debt load... which I can relate to:

 

While the couple acknowledges that they had a fortunate set of circumstances that allowed them to get into tiny home ownership, the fact remains that they DID it, in the main through good financial choices, patience and plenty of hard work.  

Inspiring and local: love it!
 

Feb 18 – Blocked? Me? Why?

Well, this is a first for me: yesterday I was Blocked by a friend for expressing my opinion, ironically after blogging last week about friendship.

Which I stated rationally, calmly and logically... apparently it was easier to get RID of me altogether, then for this person to ask themselves why posting their cute gun meme was an issue:

So MANY memes out there are DESIGNED to dismiss opposition with cute non-analogous comparatives...


I didn't post it as invitation to debate it, by the way: I'm worn out from this week's events, and by people refusing to see their own mental roadblocks. I've got an open mind, tempered by the knowledge I've gathered from MANY years of knowing the subject matter inside and out. In this case, it's the issue of Gun Control in the USA, which I more than understand pushes some people's buttons...

Yet even studying the issue for as long as I have, I've not come up with any concrete solutions: more national regulations, insurance and other ideas are all out there... and I am certain that there MUST be changes, BIG changes in the US, if they're going to come to grips with these horror shows.
 

If you're going to Block me on FBook, then at least have the decency to tell me why, first... because if it's just due to my having an opinion you don't like and expressing it like an adult, then it matters to discuss the reasons why,  if only so I don't repeat my mistake AND learn from it. Developing one's critical thinking skills along with empathy, learn to see different perspectives, keep an open mind, and above all, don't let your emotions take control over your reason: all of these things are important to me in both the public and private space. This is a learning experience for me, one that's not happened before, and I understand that it's not about me being right as much as it is me expressing my frustration on the first target I see, be it friend or stranger... and that's something I know I still have to work on.

I appreciate all of you, friends and family both, and you must know that I don't take ANY of you for granted, despite some differences. As should we all.

 
This week and weekend have been damn busy: I've been doing a line-by-line critique of a friend's 80K-word YA novel, as well as working on a story for a contest submission, both due ASAP. The weekend was especially challenging, as car problems ate up previous time On Saturday( parent's van sunroof stuck OPEN while RAINING! )and I broke my girlfriend's car door thanks to a HUGE blast of 90kph wind out of nowhere that snapped the limiter rod - DAMN! All these things and more have been wearing, but I've dealth with them, and am now on to a new week... and new challenges.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Rocket Roadsters, Relationships and Readiness Reports

The word of the week is incorrigible.

Feb 5 - Project Linda

Ah, technology: good for a bit, then the bad starts to bite.

Phones in particular seem to be of the 'Wow' followed months later by 'What the?' category, which explains why most people upgrade every 1-2 years when they're on contract. I aim for 3-4, but then I'm a sucker for punishment: It doesn't stop me from wishing for the latest smartphones...

I love comparing the specs on the latest phones every 6 months, feeding the 'I might get THIS one!' fantasy I have, though I've stepped back a bit in the last two years given how FREAKIN' expensive the things are now. The latest Samsung S9 tops $1,000 CDN, which is more than I can dream of justifying, even on contract( WHICH I WILL NEVER GO BACK ON AGAIN! )to help with the wallet-pain.

However, there are some things that are just too cool NOT to want, like:

Attach phone to dock and presto: instant midrange laptop!

I'm putting this on my 'Something to aim for in 2019' list, for when I've dug myself enough out of debt that I can consider a new cell phone with some style and utility. By then, both my Samsung S5( with its growing list of quirks )and my Samsung NP540U3C laptop( an i5: coincidence? )will be VERY long in the tooth.

I'll be dreaming of Project Linda for the rest of 2018, methinks...


Feb 6 – Falcon Heavy Launch!

Today was an AMAZING day for space exploration!

Elon Musk's SpaceX debuted the next generation of reusable rocket, the Falcon 9 Heavy Launch vehicle, which put in a SPECTACULAR performance! Utilizing three reusable boosters, the Falcon soared into space in a textbook pilot launch, which I had the luck to watch LIVE from work on my phone - how cool is that?

The boosters all returned to earth, and while the sea-landing failed, the two land-bound boosters made perfect simultaneous touchdowns, right out of a scifi movie:



Yet the BEST part wasn't the boosters, but what the rocket payload itself: Elon Musk's cherry-red Tesla Roadster, being used as ballast in a great PR move rather than boring old concrete or steel shot - hello, future space travelers, be sure to check out what's on the dash and in the glove compartment:



Feb 7 – Friendship

What does friendship mean, really?

It's a HUGE subject, and I don't intend to get into a long diatribe here, but rather state what simple applies to me and my experience... and why I bring it up today.

As others have told me, and I've noticed myself, I tend to make friends fairly easily, for which I'm grateful. In thinking about the Why and How, I believe it's a combination of being genuine, listening to what others say before speaking to find common interests, and trying to give more than I receive. There are other nuances involved as well, many of which play into proximity: where are my friends?

In the last ten years, the majority of my friends have been online: either old friends from back east, or online friends I've made over the years. I've been slow to cultivate new local friends here in the first five years in BC, I think in the main because I wasn't exactly happy, I lived outside of town, and I was just too damn busy with work which wore me down mentally, emotionally and physically.

This brief article takes a solid look at how people become friends, what a true friend is, and why they become friends in the first place. Interestingly, the subject came up in relation to Star Trek, examining the unbreakable bonds between Kirk, Spock and McCoy that provided such a solid foundation for the original series... and left such enduring characters for us to both enjoy and relate to even today.


For me, my current situation sees me with some solid local friends I see semi-regularly, a larger number of online friends that I 'keep up with' on social media, and a whole bunch of friends that I count as such, but don't really keep up with: unlike me, none of my friends have regular blogs, and as such I can only go with what I see on social media. Oddly, nobody really tries to 'keep up' any more via email, mail, or( shockingly )phone calls: we're all busy, and I think we're all keeping a weather eye out for Big / Bad News - that's the extent of things if we're not actually sitting down for a beer in person.

Yet the friendships endure, for the most part, changing intensities over time.


Feb 8 – Penguins!

This week at work: laughter!

I was feeling stressed this week about various things, so I took the opportunity at work to watch as many episodes of The Penguins Of Madagascar series on YouTube as I could: there's dozens of them at watchable quality, and I quite enjoyed each one:



Thinking about the show and why I find it so appealing, it's fairly simple: the writing's solid without feeling like it's pandering to kids( weird, I know! )and the characters are memorable, especially the core 'team' of the four penguins as well as the primary antagonists, the lemurs:


Watching as many episodes as I did this week back to back, I can't say that I grew bored with the dynamic, even though it's an episodic show without a long-term arc: there's a TON of possibilities in situating a martial team of penguins in a New York zoo, with much the same setup as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by having a major city as a backdrop for their 'undercover' adventures. None of the writing felt trite or the situations overused, as the storylines played well to the characters... and it helped that each episode was only 11 minutes long: perfect!


Feb 9 – In A Fitter State

I'm doing well, two months into 2018 - to wit:

  • By today, I'd managed to shake off the cold that had me... er, cold, all this week and my energy levels are back to almost-normal
  • My massage therapist commented on how I was far more flexible overall, especially my abdomen and left foot, whose main tendon used to be like a steel cable under my skin: I'm MUCH improved, and feeling far less 'fragile' of a day.
  • Eyesight-wise, I'm only getting the occasional twinge when I do something I shouldn't, like glancing at my phone without my closeup glasses... otherwise, my eyestrain seems to have gone away, and I hope the eye supplements I'm taking twice daily now will 'see' more improvements happening over the next few months, with a lessening of my light sensitivity.
  • On a high note, I've walked almost 13,000 steps twice this week without mishap, which is almost twice my average daily distance and nary a twinge in my legs: GREAT progress!
  • I've had a low-level headache for the last three weeks, but I've atributed it to the yo-yo weather changes( +/- 2.5 pts of pressure every other day )along with the sinus pressure from my cold... but it's been managable, not debilitating.
  • The extra exercise and twice-weekly swimming seem to be making a difference with my heartrate( along with watching what I'm eating: little-to-no bacon or sugar )as it's been low and steady when it should be, without going too high even when I'm busy: again, good signs, and also notable for indicating low daily anxiety.



While my stress is still hanging around, it's not at the near-crippling levels of recent years, so I'm managing it fairly well though there's been some bad days of late. Friends and family, and especially my girlfriend, have kept me balanced, and I'm finding I'm not getting fixated on what's wrong, but rather moving on to what I can do to make things right.

That's as progressive a shift as I can think of right now.


Feb 10 – Future Me?

How long will my words be around?

I've pondered this question over the decades: what, if anything, of what I write will still be around in twenty years? Or fifty? Or five hundred?

If Google or its descendant-companies are still around, will my Blog still be as well? What will people make of it, should they stumble across it in the etherweb?

Would they be able to recreate me from my blog, just like Bart Simpson? Like so:


I find it an interesting mental exercise, one with some basis in possibility: we're already coding AI's today to behave like humans, and how better to do so than by providing them with samples of a person's writing? I have over a million words in this blog to date, and I'd wager that someone would be able to make a decent interactive copy of me with enough effort and ingenuity... which is intriguing.

A form of immortality, if you will: any author hopes to live on in their works.


Feb 11 – Altered Carbon

Over the last two weeks, I've been drawn into the new NetFlix series Altered Carbon, set in a scifi cyberpunk-esque future where humans can live forever thanks to alien technology... if you can afford it, that is. While everyone has what's called a 'stack' you only get the body you're born with; should anything happen, you only get to come back if you can buy a replacement 'sleeve'( body )to house your stack... and that's where things get tricky if your credit's bad. You can read an excellent bit about the series 10-year journey to the screen here.


The production values are top-notch: seamless CGI that doesn't get in the way of the story but instead, serves it, as things should be. The acting is excellent, with good character progression, an intriguing plot, and a well-developed world with a solid backstory that's plausible and has room for exploration. I found myself watching two episodes at a time this week, as I couldn't stay away, and I've just the final ep left to treat myself with this coming week, should I be so deserving.

I think what I like most about Altered Carbon is the world-building: there's a solidity to what humanity has grown into over the last few centuries, a natural feeling that 'sure, if we discovered how to make people live forever, this is what would happen' which is the hallmark of good scifi: making excellent guesses about the future, and then commenting on what a mess humans will make of it.

Like I said: it's addicting... both the show, and scifi both.


My girlfriend made a comment to me this weekend about my blogs almost always ending on a positive note... and I responded that it's intentional: nobody wants to read a complaint journal, a weekly long-term doldrums essay-length dump of headspace. I try to tell things like they are for me, week to week: the good, the bad and the irksome all rolled together. It's part journal-diary, part here's-how-I-see things, and part this-is-what-went-down, hopefully packaged and tweaked with my own voice in words, for folks to find as they see fit. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Shadows, Stress and Some of the Same

The word of the week is morose.

Jan 29 - Bright

Netflix has been pretty good lately when it comes to original content, coming up with quite a few new original shows in 2017, including an interesting twist on the "buddy cop drama" theme: setting it in a world of magic, with elves, orcs and more...

Also starring Wil Smith, because... why not?


Bright was an interesting film: well-produced, decently written and with solid characters set in a world where orcs and elves have 'returned' to co-habitate alongside humans. Obviously there's all sorts of tensions involved, and you can read a summary of the show here; I can't be bothered.

It was a fun watch, which surprised me, but I can't say I'd like to go back to that world again; the backstory seemed weak, and the plot centered around a magic item that seemed TOO powerful... along with a "gee, I wonder who it is" moment that was telegraphed from the first ten minutes of the show. It's again a case of $50 million for the production, and $5 spent on the script: you get what you pay for.

I applaud Netflix for making Bright, and hope they'll do more original programming in the future: though it appears that Bright is getting a sequel, I don't think I'll be watching it.

Wanna bet they'll call it 'Brighter' ?


Jan 30 – Eyeballs

My eyes still hurt, but less each week than the last: so, um, good.

I believe it's because I'm getting better at switching glasses for each of my tasks: Real Close, Close-to-Midrange( one to five feet )and finally Everything Past Five Feet Away. Being consistent about it means that my eyes don't 'tweak' in pain when I try to look at something 'out of the range' of the pair I'm currently wearing, so I'm taking that as a sign that I'm doing things right.


I'm also switching distances every 20-30 minutes, to give my eyes a break from focusing at the same range for too long( the ol' 20-20-20 Rule )which is also helping. One trick I've found is to 'defocus' my eyes when I'm doing something close to the range-limit, so that my eyes aren't trying to make the details 'crisp' - I can still see well enough, and it works as well when I'm not wearing glasses.


This week as well, my order of Lutien Plus came in, which I'm taking twice a day. I'm not expecting miracles, but rather I hope the supplements( benefits are listed HERE )will help 'round out' my eye health, letting get back to being more flexible and relaxed of a day. Heck, I'd LOVE it if the stuff helped my night vision become less ultra-sensitive so I don't have to avert my eyes from oncoming cars in pain. One more reason to pay attention to your eye health.

Small things, but they all add up to quality of life: the eyes have it!


Jan 31 – Pulling The Shades

It's an interesting thing, privacy: it's what you make it, these days.

I'm a private person, though you wouldn't know it from this blog, tossing things out there for the entire internet to see, if it cared to look. Most people don't, though; I doubt I've had more than one random visitor a month over the last decade, and none of them likely stayed too long; why would they?


In the early days of the internet, it was a different story. People put all sorts of info online: home address, phone numbers, email addresses... all through the 90's, things that are completely are-you-NUTS? today. I was one of the few who did my best to keep my personal info OFF the web, and it shows even today: I barely get any spam, only a few marketing calls a month, and no junk mail whatsoever. Keeping a low profile online has many advantages, especially when it comes to social media, where people 'creep' your profile regularly to try to pry out info they can use to sell you things, or worse, sell to spammers to sneak past your spam filters: I still get email derived from spambots scraping my online profiles for friend's names, which irks me.

Offline, I like to keep my blinds closed, and it weirds me out that so many people leave theirs open; don't they care that other people can see their activities? Not to mention advertising their nice big-screen TV, art collection, and what-have you. While I'm no Harrison Ford, I do value my privacy, all the more so having lived on a main street for the last five years with constant traffic twenty feet away. Time to myself, the privacy of my own thoughts without interruption or distraction, is precious indeed.


Retreating to a cabin in the woods can't happen soon enough for me.


Feb 1 – Try Not To Lose

When I'm stressed, I don't want to think: I want to relax.

Which leads to problems like not enjoying semi-complicated boardgames, stimulating conversations, or other medium-to-hard mental activities: they're stressful.

Ah, conundrums...


It's really frustrating: I want to relax, to play a game... but I don't like to lose, which undercuts my self-esteem. What I seem to want is to win without trying, which my logical mind *knows* is laughable, but at the same time I can't put in the effort, because it seems too much like work, which I'm trying to avoid.

*rubs his eyes with a tired hand*

I don't have a solution to this, apart from not playing games where I can't lose, like co-operative games:



Feb 2 – It's that Day again!

Groundhog Day never fails to relax me... even if only for a while.

This week has been especially trying, as I've been at work with a cold, focusing as best I could while killing Kleenexes - not fun, but I'm damned if I'll use up my previous sick days for just a head cold. I've needed them in the past for when I'm too sick to BE at work, and I want to ensure that 2018's supply isn't wasted early on...

Anyway: great movie, one that never fails to move me. Just what I needed tonight.


It's also the 25th anniversary of the film, and worth mentioning because I've been watching it for nigh into twenty of those years, every year... and still not tired of it.

The same can't be said for the people of Woodstock, Illinois, where Groundhog Day was filmed for five weeks in 1995: the town has moved on, but much of the town has remained the same...

Definitely not a timewarp, but something else - kind of like this 15-minute video, whose creator went to Woodstock to capture many of the film's locations as they are today:


 
Feb 3 – Eyeballs

I'm feeling down this week.

Maybe it's the total lack of sunshine, or the constant rain, or the depressing size of my chequing account... a combination of many, MANY factors, but I'm down.

I'm sure the cold's not helping either, though I'm mostly over it by now. I haven't swam this past week because of it, but I'm determined to go THIS week as I NEED the exercise, to keep my health improving: I've lost 5lbs over the last 10 days, which isn't good, so exercise and eating well are the orders for February.

Quicksand Rhino isn't enjoying himself right now...

Perhaps I'm just tired: tired of hanging on to the ledge with my fingertips for so long, that they've gone numb. I'm tired of looking up from my long trudge and seeing the future no closer, my book(s) still not published( don't get me started on THAT side-quest )and each day seeming like the same "Wake, Work, Worry, Wish, Repeat" cycle - it gets old, trying to be optimistic when nothing changes for the better.


Yet 2018's here: I made it through 2017, and something's GOTTA give as long as I keep pushing, though from past experience it might be a tendon of mine.

Each day's another opportunity to push: to take another step towards the goals I've set, and nevermind that the light seems to always remain just as far away...

At least it's stopped flickering.


Feb 4 – Timing

Ergh.

I must have woken on the wrong side of the bed today, because everything hurt: my neck, my head and most of all, my mood: it was foul and decidedly down.

Writing the blog in the morning helped somewhat with the mood, but by noon my head was aching abysmally, so much so that I popped a second Tylenol, which was unusual of late.


By the time I met my lady downtown at the main library for an afternoon poetry session being presented by Victoria's Poet Laurate Yvonne Blomer, my head and neck still ached. I persevered through the presentations, which admittedly were lovely when I could focus enough on the words being spoken. It was a shame I couldn't fully take everything in, but I gritted my( mental )teeth to enjoy as much as I could through the pounding in my head, which thankfully had faded to a dull ache by the time things wrapped up a few hours later.

My lady suggested a late lunch / early dinner at Shiki Sushi, which combined with her gracious company really helped lift my mood. We ended the day with a long walk that looped over to Cherry Bomb Toys, where a friend had earlier today said some Babylon 5 toys had come in! Unfortunately, someone had beat me to the Shadow Sentient by ten minutes( ARGH!!!!!!!! )but we were still able to enjoy the rare sight of a good number of B5 toys on display:

Middle Left: Shadow Sentient, usually goes for $150 USD, IF you can find it...
Not that I could have afforded to purchase the figure, mind you, but I would have liked to have held it, at least... kind of like finding a unicorn and being allowed to pet its nose.


Pshew... I'm glad this week's over with, especially Sunday: what with the cold, body aches, stress and the mood I was in, I was fit to chew adamantium... but, sometimes the elephant sits on you, and all you can do is wriggle out from under: no butts about it.