Sunday, January 10, 2016

Calendars, Cars and Crazy Cats

The word of the week is innocuous.

Jan 4 – Marking Time

I haven't had a calendar in years.

Calendars used to be a big part of my life, as I marked up all sorts of things on t work schedules, school schedules, when TV shows are on, plus all the other sorts of life event that we all have.

I think the last calendar that I had on my wall was back in 2006, something to do with sci-fi or fantasy. In previous years, I had both wall and desk calendar versions of The Far Side comics, a favourite of mine for the decade past high school in the 90's: nothing better! Before that, I was the proud owner of a personalized animation calendar drawn by a friend of mine, with whom I've since lost touch... but I still have the calendar! I even had a Babylon 5 wall calendar, still sealed in the plastic; I think it's good again in 2019, or 2020.


You can go to TimeAndDate.com to create your own custom calendar( for free! )which you might find handy for making specialized printouts for gaming and the like. There's a proliferation of sites out there that can do this, but many limite your options unless you pay, or are full of ads, or otherwise not as easy to use.

Google Calendar is what I use nowadays, ever since moving to BC. I dabbled a bit with Yahoo's version, but since Google's become so tightly integrated into Android for mobile phones, it's a no-brainer to use it instead. Having reminders for bills, appointments and the like show up on-time on my phone has been fantastic, making me wonder how I ever did without such a useful utility.

It's still lacking the nice wall artwork though.


Jan 5 – Wheel me?

In addition to calendars, I haven't owned a car in over 8 years.

I don't really feel the lack - and I'm not alone.

It used to be, a car was a necessary thing for me, for both school and work often took me across the city or even down the highway into the next town. When I was living outside the city for about 4 years during university, it was vital to get me to work, school and to have a social life driving into town( a 25-minute ride, that ).

Living outside of town while in BC was trickier, as I didn't have a vehicle and buses didn't run where I live atop a mountain in one-road-in-and-out community. I sometimes had to leave 2-3 hours early for work and sit around in a local shop or the library - I made good use of my time, but it wasn't ideal, not by a long shot.


Nowadays, I don't need a car for work or even shopping: I can walk everywhere I need, or take the bus directly if I need to go further afield. Sure, it's easier and quicker to hope in my lady's car when we want to do things( glad she has it )but in the main things have worked out here that I just don't need, or want, a vehicle.

That seems to be the sentiment of more and more people these days, which only makes sense: get what you need. And for a growing number of folks, cars are not a need. Even automotive manufacturers seem to be recognizing this, with the research into self-driving cars making a future where you can rent a car by the minute, hour or day seems far more likely( and easy! )than it ever has before.

Just start up the app and a car - model type per your needs - shows up at your door. Presto!


Jan 6 – Dang it, Occulus...

What a dissapointment.

For a few years now, g33ks everywhere have been awaiting the announcement of the release price-point for the Occulus Rift, a next-generation VR( virtual reality )helmet. I tried out a model 2 years ago here in Victoria at the now-defunct GottaCON and was impressed with the 'sense of being there' though the graphics needed some work.

Today, Occulus announced the price is... $600 USD.

What?????


To add insult to injury, you'll need a computer powerful enough to run the VR simulation, to the tune of at least another $1000 USD. So in Canadian dollars, that comes out to close to $2500 after taxes.

Um, I'll pass, thanks.

So dissapointing, as I've said. I'll likely have to wait at least another 5 years until the VR standards are finialized and the hardware comes down in price enough to be affordable, like 3D TV's( and those haven't really caught on - I have one and rarely use the feature ). I'd love to be able to jump into a game of Battlefield 3, almost literally, to be able to play using a device like the Myo as a controller instead of holding one... since my arms won't let me do so for very long any more.

Check back here in 5 years for a VR update.


Jan 7 – Feedback!

I'm walking on air today...

As some of you may recall, I sent out copies of the third draft of my novel to a dozen people, with the request that they fill out a Feedback Questionnaire. Of that group, 3 people were already members of my Critique Group, and so were giving me feedback on a monthly basis as it was.

To date, none of the other 9 people have responded, despite a few reminders...

Until today: a 13th member sent me a COMPLETE questionnaire!

It was exactly what I'd hoped for: a set of frank and honest answers, as detailed as necessary for completeness but not so brief as to leave me wondering too much. Here's just one of the parts that tickled the author in me to near-giggles:


Which characters do you find especially memorable? Were any of them forgettable? Why?
Most memorable characters in order:
1.       The Prince (can’t forget this guy…he’s very fascinating in a disagreeable sort of way)
2.       Aviilaar (omg so lovable)
3.       Niishe (obviously the central character, a coming of age warrior who I’d like to know more about)
4.       The Queen (can’t get enough of her!!! So interesting and deep)
5.       The Chamberlain (although my favourite, because I sense a like mind, maybe not as memorable as others)

It's exactly this sort of feedback that keeps me going, as I've mentioned before. Just like reviews for already-published stories, getting something back from one's readers is an accomplishment: while you can write in a vacuum, it's far better for an author to hear back about how their readers have been affected by their stories.

I'll just go and do some more air-walking now...


Jan 8 – The Valley Of The Wind

My girlfriend showed me a wonderful scifi movie tonight: NausicaƤ of The Valley Of The Wind by Studio Ghibili.

It's a masterfully stirring tale about a young woman whose fate is to stand between the old world of Earth and the new. It's a post-apocalyptic story, which I wasn't aware of or I would have speedily watched it long ago.


The titular character, NausicaƤ, reminds me of my own character creations for my scifi novel series: a young woman who is fearless, confident in her own abilities and plain fun to watch as she deals with all the challenges that come to face her.

It was a fun watch, and I think I'll see it again sooner than I imagine.


Jan 9 – Podcasting

I was part of a podcast today.

Back in 2014, I was invited to do a podcast for Trial By Stone, a fancast for the world of The Dark Crystal. It was a great experience, as I'd just come back fresh from my trip to NYC to tour Jim Henson Studios as well as attend the Puppets On Film / Dark Crystal Fanfest in the fall of 2014.

Fortunately, my phone didn't ring partway through the podcast this time.


I found the experience more relaxing this time around, seeming just to be five people having a fun discussion about a subject we all loved. We discussed the recent issuing of the second graphic novel called Creation Myths, a 3-part series exploring the world of The Dark Crystal before the events of the movie.

What I found interesting was how many questions everyone had, which indicates to me that the writing was as thought-provoking for me as it was for the others in the podcast. Good writing raises more questions than it answers, though in good ways: it shows that there's depths to the story being told and that those are worth exploring further.

We ended up running long on the podcast, over 90 minutes and so we'll have to reconvene to finish up in a few week's time. I'll be re-reading the second issue of Creation Myths, which I have as a digital file, to see if there's anything else I can glean from its pages.


Jan 10 – Bang Nuts

Some people are just so... stupid.

This afternoon, my mother heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the woods next door to where they live on the western shore of the island. After peeking out the window, she spotted a man standing in his backyard, firing a rifle at his back fence( 12 shots, target practice? )which backs onto the woods.

Firing ANY guns inside the city aren't allowed, in case you wondered.

The RCMP showed up incredibly fast, and after checking out the area they pilitely knocked on the man's front door to see what was going on.


Apparently he told them rather colourfully what he thought of the ban on discharging firearms within city limits - which doesn't change the fact he was either ignorant of such( plain ol' stupid )or chose to ignore it( even stupider ).

This comes back to my thought that if people want a gun, they need to pass a stringent series of checks, tests and otherwise prove they are qualified to own one - apart from proving a need for one, should it come to that.

For Mister Trigger Happy today, that might have saved having police open a guns-watch file in his name. Better yet, it might have saved him from injuring someone walking in the park behind his house, as people do on a regular basis; hadn't he known this?

Anyway, nobody got hurt, which is all that matters.

Can't say the same about anyone getting smarter...

I'm in a bit of a mood today; I've a lot on my mind and as I've said before, I don't want to air it all here as a 'complaint journal' - that's not what this blog is about. Should it become necessary, I'll go talk to someone, but as in years past, there's nothing that anyone can do: it's up to me to pull myself up by my own bootstraps, and that's that. Tomorrow's Monday, the start of a new week, in a new year: I'm going to make the best of it.