Sunday, December 10, 2017

Biscuits, Better Days and Boat Parades

The word of the week is prevaricate.

Dec 4 - Interim Report

Things are going okay this week.

As my physical annoyances slowly fade, my mental faculties are getting more energy back, kind of like switching power from Shields to Engines when you're playing a Star Wars space simulation... which is an image I like.

Not having to deal with a pile of minor day-to-day frustrations, both physical and mental, means that there's energy for my my subconscious writer to mull over the edits for my book. It's surprising how much energy that takes, especially when you sit down to write to and your muse just shrugs, saying "Sorry, you've been too distracted for me to do much of anything; try to get more rest."

Steady... steady...

Now that the end of 2017 is approaching, there's not much more I can do this year until I really get the ball rolling with my book's edits - it's only been in fits and starts the last few months, and that's nowhere good enough to get the job done in a timely fashion.

On the other hand, having a stress-fre day job has been the perfect mental as well as( partial )physical relief that I needed for the last long while, though I can't say that I'll be sad to see the last of the mail cross my desk of a morning in 2018 sometime. It's been nice, but I'm certainly ready for more of a challenge at my day job, with commeasurably better pay.

Who knows? In five years I may be turning down book contracts unless they pay me at least one I'm earning now every month... or even more, hopefully.

Aim high.


Dec 5 – Omega Class!

Back in March of this year, I meantioned Spacedock, a YouTube channel who specializes in examining scifi spacecraft as though they are showing an informational video to familiarize you with the vehicle. The example I gave at the time was for a Super Star Destroyer from Star Wars, but after browsing through the channel playlist this week, I discovered gem - a Babylon 5 entry! Enjoy:



Dec 6 – Liquid Television RETURNS - Sorta

Well, call me flabbergasted!

I never expected to see the return of such a far-out show as Liquid Television, at least not in any form that I wouldn't have to purchase on DVD or Blu-Ray - there's no way such a show would make it onto NetFlix or similar streaming services, given how racy and radical the animation is even now:


For those of you who don't know, Liquid Television was a cutting-edge of animation put on by the then-not-sucky MTV channel and consisted of several different shows bundled together under the LT banner. Everyone of them is worth watching for all aspects: the writing, the voice acting and the animation are like nothing you've seen before or since. I especially recommend watching Aeon Flux and The Maxx in sequence as they're available!

Incredibly, every one of the 27 episodes that ran from 1991-1994 on MTV are now available online at Archive.org for free, which is the perfect price point for my budget right now.

Why aren't you watching it already?


Dec 7 – Star Wars next week...

The Last Jedi opens in a week, and I'm... kinda excited?


After the letdown that was The Force Awakens, I'm a little hesitant to go whole-hog-fanboy over the next Star Wars film, though the advance buzz is that it's incredible - I heard the same thing from the advance screeners for TFA and I'm going to reserve judgment until I see it for myself in a few more weeks.

Hopefully, I can avoid most spoilers while I wait for the theaters to become less jam-packed; the whole jam-in-with-other-fans experiences and something that I want anymore, as I'd rather enjoy the entire film instead of getting parts of it drowned out from the crowd cheering or other such distractions.

I've been waiting ALL YEAR to use this animation! So cool!

I'm also hoping that the storyline won't be a rehash of any of the previous films, which as a writer I would find rather disappointing. But hey, there's a good chance that given the volume of criticism TFA received for its rehash of the very first Star Wars was released in 1977, that the writers took it to heart to make sure the story with something original and worthwhile while still servicing the Star Wars universe.

I'll let you know when I see the few weeks, probably on or a little after Christmas


Dec 8 – Extra Rest

I took today off.

It was planned a few weeks ago, when I discovered that I HAD to take a vacation day before the end of 2017 or lose the hours - tough choice, right?

With this Friday off, combined with my regular EDO's( Earned Days Off )plus the various holidays this month, I'll have one 5-day work-week, three four-day work-weeks, and best of all: a two-day work-week right after Christmas.

Good advice I should heed more often in 2018...

A good thing too, as I'm really struggling right now to function on that 5th day physically. Also as of today, my left wrist has decided to send shooting pains up my arm, to tell me that supporting myself on my cane( at least on my left side )isn't going to be an option for a while - yay.

Which is fine, because also as of today, I've managed to walk around the house as well as to and from the pool this morning without any pain, just tightness. In fact, the swimming this morning at 7am went really well, my second session this week and it seems to loosen things up without more than some complaining twinges and no outright pain to speak of by the end of the day - all good signs.

I'm cautiously optimistic that my core muscles will follow suit, as long as I'm exercising at least twice a week for the next few months at the pool in the mornings. The gentle stretching and exercise should do me a world of good.


Dec 9 – De-lighted Boats!

While my lady and I didn't watch the annual Lighted Truck Parade here in Victoria this year, we did take the time to see some lighted boats!

After decorating our own boat with a number of AA-powered light strings, we headed down to the Harrison Yacht Pond before 5pm to join members of the VMSS( Victoria Model Sailing Society )for their annual Lighted Boat Parade!

It was damn cold, but there were several dozen people there when we arrived and a half dozen boats already on the pond. After gingerly floating our own Haulin' Trawler, we let it float more or less unpowered for a bit as it was somewhat top-heavy; turns out we needed to remove some weights, which balanced things out. Tippy boats in a pond are bad for their electrical components.

Our own boat looked pretty darn good, and even came complete with a lighted snowman, Frosty, steering the ship:

Doesn't she look great?

Other boats there included the famed alligator, who was clutching Santa in its jaws( no photo, sadly, as he left almost as we arrived )as well as a few smaller boats and a massive barge full of Christmas cheer:


Here's a closeup of the barge, without the onboard lights - tinfoil made it magical:


We were there for less than an hour before we called it an evening; the humid chill rolling in off the ocean was just too much to take for longer than that, even wrapped up as we were. Fun as heck, though, and next year I'll remember to rig the ship with a speaker to play Christmas tunes on the water!


Dec 10 – Sold!

YES!

After a gentle day spent with my lady that started with breakfast at a new local spot called Bitchin Biscuits( THEY HAVE AMAZING BISCUITS AND SAUSAGE GRAVY!!!!!!!!!!!!! ) along with a few hours of boardgames( including a new one called Labyrinth  - fun tile-based maze solving )we called it quits around 1pm so we can each get a few things done.

In the course of the afternoon, I answered some e-mails from a gentleman in Australia who is interested in my Crossbows & Catapults item lot for sale on eBay this past week. To my surprise, the $200+ cost to ship the sent to him wasn't off-putting, and close to dinnertime, I received this notice:


After a little bit of cheering and fist-pumping into the air, I exchanged a few more e-mails with him and will be sending out the package in the morning to ensure it arrives shortly before Christmas in Australia.

This is a big relief, as even with three pays this month, it was going to be a tight financially  until the end of the year for myself my sister. As this is the last of any 'big ticket' items that I still have, 2018 won't see me sending anything else out like this; any new income for me is going to have to be derived either from a better government position( soon!!! )or in early spring, when my Glowforge business gets off the ground to start making some money.

Right now, I'm just really happy that someone wanted to give my C&C set a home badly enough to pay nearly 10x's what I paid for it in the mid-90's - I hope they get many more years of fun out of it!


Looking at my calendar for December, there's not much on there: my work party was last week, and this week there's a smaller boat-club party, but nothing else socially apart for my critique group in a week and probably a family get-together on Christmas Day. The rest of the time is my own to use and I plan on working solidly in my spare time to get a good foothold on my book edits going into 2018.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Supermoons, Software Surprises and being a Smartass

The word of the week is persevere.

Nov 27 - Smartass

Lately, I've been leaving some good comments online, specifically, on FBook.

Since I haven't been writing much of late, only editing, I can only guess that my creative side needs some kind of outlet. Much as I try not to be beholden to FBook, I do spend too much time on it of a day( mostly at work, when my hands are busy but my eyes and brain aren't )though I've managed to curate my feed fairly well to filter out much of the crap( 45, fads, viral garbage, idiot articles et al ). There's only so much you can filter...

In the last few weeks though, I've found myself becoming somewhat of a wag: an article will catch my eye and a humorous sentence or two will pop into my head which I usually use as a comment. For example, this was a comment I left about an article on getting into arguments online:

A brief example of a few dozen I've left this past month...

This is an obvious form of self-gratification, but it's harmless one, in that I'm looking at an article title or comment and immediately trying to find humor in it. Today, much of what I've created a has been throwaway, but it's been vital in one aspect: it shows that my sense of humor is still there despite my current stresses, and I'm keeping it active on a daily basis in these small ways now and then.

As such, I know my Muse is still smiling.


Nov 28 – NWN RETURNS!!!!

It's back!

Out of the blue, Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition was announced today by Beamdog Studios, who is put together small team to update the venerable 2002 D&D game with some modern graphical touches and, more importantly, FULL updated server coding and hosting!


What this means is that the dedicated NWN community can once again connect via an in-game central server to browse for various PW's( persistent worlds )on a master list, instead of having to go through various third-party ad-hoc solutions which complicate things a little too much when you just want to game for a bit.

Now, I don't have the time at present to indulge in my NWN habit, but I'm making myself a promise to get on board if 2018 turns out as well as I'm hoping for work and writing: a reward of NWN, if you will.

Something worth working hard towards!


Nov 29 – Good Days, Bad Days

All this week, I've been struggling physically, which affects me mentally.

My left leg continues to be an issue, where the tendon keeps getting so tight it feels like I could pluck it like a bowstring to hear it hum. I'm hitting it with heat on and off all day at work, warm baths at night and stretching, to try and limber it up to keep any recurrence of tearing at bay, but it's damned difficult some days. Walking with a cane doesn't help to stretch it, unless I concentrate on a "just enough weight" with every step: a maddening distraction that's exhausting.

This has also affected my breathing, causing a recurrence of tension in my solar plexus and making it hard to sit OR stand for too long a length of time without discomfort and/or pain. All I can do there is monitor my breathing, remembering to relax, and not sit or stand for more than twenty minutes at a time... all day long.

It's a damned good thing my day job's not more demanding right now, or I'd be unable to do much every other day for the discomfort / pain.

The stress of NOT having landed a better position only adds to all this.


Yet all I can do is soldier on: each day is a new challenge, where I set myself up to hurt less the next day by not screwing things up physically. I pay close attention to how I'm standing / sitting / walking / breathing without overdoing it to the point of anxiety, and fit the rest of what I need to do into those spaces.

Next week, I hope to FINALLY get back to swimming, which will limber things up again - that's the theory, and it's a hope I'm betting heavily on.

Otherwise, android bodies can't get here soon enough!


Nov 30 – New Firefox!

Web browsers: we take them for granted.

Myself, I use FIVE different browsers... because I have a lot of things on the go, and I can just have each open to the last set of tabs whenever I use them. Convenient, but that's not to say that each browser is interchangeable:


A quick rundown: I use Chrome for my everyday browsing, Opera for business / writing-related tabs, MS Edge for work-related things( it's too slow for much else )then Maxathon( an odd duck )for the one-off link-check and FireFox for speed when I just want to look a few things up without having Maxaton crash constantly on all sorts of different sites.

Yes, FireFox is my new go-to browser, since its latest update - wow!


I didn't bother with it much prior to that, as it was SLOOOOW to load... too damn slow. Even the 64-bit knockoff, WaterFox, was too slow for my tastes, sadly.

But, with the latest update to version 57.0, a host of speed improvements including 64-bit coding has made FireFox *fly* - just like the old days! There's much to be said for a program that just WORKS, and works WELL, so much so that your 'net browsing experience becomes transparent, and so your productivity rises commeasurate to the lack of problems in the web interface.

Well done, Mozilla. Welcome back!


Dec 1 – Past Peek: Two Decades!

Life is funny sometimes, and passes by too quickly most days.

While tidying up my closet after taking out a few things to sell on eBay, I came across an old calendar I'd saved, one that an old artist friend had created back in 1997. Here's a picture of what I was up to in December of that year:

My handwriting is still about the same: awful

As you can see, I had a few things on the go, including the mid-term exams from my second attempt at university that would fizzle out again in 1998.

I was juggling school while transitioning from finishing four years of working at Tim Horton's to my new job in-town at The Office Place. For both, I had short shifts that added up to around 20-25 hours a week, with ALL my weekends spoken for - not a whole lot of time for doing much else apart from school, as I recall, though I was still running the local Amiga Group in its final year of operation.

Yet, as you can see, I still managed to fit in a D&D game, as well as TWO Christmas parties, pay my admittedly-small bills and figure out some time to both reformat my computer( a Pentium90 at the time! )and watch ReBoot on live TV.

Ah, the golden years. They didn't seem like it at the time, as I was so busy juggling everything( and school didn't go well that year )but man, I had energy AND my health, which allowed me to get through quite a lot then that I can't imagine now.

So much, from so few marks on a page...


Dec 2 – Selling Catapults

It's sad, but it was inevitable: another toy has to go.

I've held onto my almost-mint Crossbows and Catapults game for 25 years now, having acquired the base set in 1986 and the bigger Grand Battleset in 1992 as well as a few smaller expansions while they were still being sold in stores( I think I got most of those at a discount as they were being cleared out ). As you can see, there's quite a lot to the collection( 240+ pcs ):

That's a lot of plastic in surprisingly good shape...

What made this game shine though, was my basement at the time: it was a massive open area of painted concrete with few obstructions, perfect for blasting the little plastic 'caroms' at your opponents armies and structures. Usually my friends and I agreed that the victory conditions were either A) the 'army commander' was knocked down( he had special markings )or B) all of the flags were knocked down. This made for some fast and furious carom action, but you had to take the time to aim, as you couldn't recover any ammo once fired.

Nowadays, I don't have anywhere to play this game, nor anyone that I believe would be interested in what amounts to a basic fling-fest of plastic pieces flying through the air or shooting across the ground. This review covers all the basics:


Thankfully, since my set is in excellent condition, it should command a decent price on eBay( if it sells... )that will pay a few bills this month. It's too bad that most of everything else that I'm any onto has little resale value, as I wouldn't mind ending the year ahead of the game instead of just trying to keep up.

You know, kind of 'catapult' myself into 2018... :-)


Dec 3 – Birthday and Supermoon!

My parents, sister, girlfriend and I( there has to be a better way of phrasing that..? )went to the Lure Restaurant for a late breakfast this morning, to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday this past week. It was notable as neither of my parents are particularly mobile right now( my mom's knee is wonky and my dad is off work for 6 months due to a work injury )so getting them both out was a treat for us all.

Lure was lovely: bright and spacious, and weirdly, crowded: almost every table was full, a far cry from the almost-empty place my sister described from her Sunday business breakfast there a few months ago. We had a table right in the center under the 'bell lights' that was raised higher than the surroundings, giving us a splendid view out over the harbour enhanced by the sun-and-clouds of this morning that at times was blinding-bright on the water. I was also right on-point with a plethora of puns, to everyone's delight save my sister... as always; she's perfected her good-natured eye-rolling by now after so much practice.

You can see where I get my beard-genes from... love ya, Dad!

As you can see, it's a nice place, and the patio looks great, though the harbour's LOUD and smells of diesel from the seaplanes depending on the wind direction. We ate well and took our time, relaxing for over an hour and a half with the pleasure of each other's company.

Happy Big Birthday, Dad!

As well, my sister and I popped down to the south shore shortly before 7 PM tonight to see the Supermoon! We timed it perfectly: the moon emerged through a hole in the cloud cover for a glorious ten minutes, and I took a few dozen photos with various low-light tweaks while enjoying the glorious sight! A few pictures did turn out, and the one below is my favourite of those - a great finale to the weekend:

Not bad for an amateur with a $100 eBay camera!

  I'm feeling better than I did at the start of last week: I can sit up again and move my torso without too much issue, though my left leg( as mentioned )is still a work in progress. I'm still plugging away at applying for better jobs, hoping to get noticed with my carefully-crafted applications, and somewhere in all that I'm fitting in editing my Draft v4.5 ... is it 2018 yet?


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Day Jobs, Dinklage and Dumb

The word of the week is pertinacious.

Nov 20 - Inspiration

Peter Dinklage and I share a first name, and something else: a desire to succeed.

I ran across his magnificent 2012 commencement speech to Bennington College, and its core message is this:


Failing is not failure: it's learning, and showing progress... and you can watch the whole speech below, it's great, even with the laugh track:



Nov 21 – Fake News, Free Science?

As some of you have seen of late, I'm fairly active on FBook when it comes to climate science, as there's just too damn many ignorant people out there who don't know the most basic science:

Yup, pretty much brainwashed...

As well, there's a smaller but far more active subset of Climate Change Deniers, who actively work to spread misinformation( 'fake news' if you will )about climate science. They're part of a network of people making a living off widening the 'Doubt Gap' as I call it: making the general public, unversed in the sciences, doubt the facts based on nothing more than cherry-picked out-of-context articles and misleading( or outright fraudulent )graphs that LOOK convincing to the layman.


Above is the example of one of the more active Deniers I've run into and regular butted heads with. As you can see from the screencap, he has NO interest in conversation regarding the veracity of his 'proofs' but merely wants to spread an agenda.

The insidious thing is, few people have the time to hold fast against people like him. I certainly don't; the best I can do is keep tabs on the various climate-related groups I'm in, checking in morning and night for a few minutes to post warnings about these trolls so that other people don't engage them in their sneaky antics.

It's wearing, but someone has to do it... otherwise these Deniers have free reign in the Comments sections of social media to spread their misinformation. Since I've been active in the last 6 months, there's been a BIG decline in the number of people both Liking and engaging these Deniers in their posts, which I'm glad to see. As well, more and more members of various FBook climate pages are now wise to these individuals, and taking it upon themselves to call out their BS, which has lessened the load on myself and a few other regular pushback-posters.

BONUS: one of the sites I frequent has compiled a list of FREE, factual science-based sources that will go a long way towards weaning people off 'newsy' science and get them back to the pro-science, fact-based non-partisan places.

What still scares me though, is how easily the misinformation's been spread by just a few people. What I wonder is: how much elsewhere am I missing seeing?


Nov 22 – It's a Go-bot!

Earlier this year, I spotted the future: the Gita!

The cute little follow-me-bot was at a tech expo this summer, and this updated video was released at the end of August to showcase what it can do:


Being able to load up to 44lbs of gear into the Gita would free me from lugging things to and from work while I'm physically unable to carry more than a light backpack, to go grocery shopping, carry games and other things... it'd be great!

There's still no price listed for the unit, but I'm hoping that it will enter the market at a point around $1000 USD, which will sell well enough to allow the next generation to be at an even more affordable price....

I'm still keeping an eye on things, and who knows? Maybe 2019 will see me with a Gita, if I still need it!


Nov 23 – When you stop...

... exercising, what happens to your body?

For athletes, the news is pretty stark, and for the rest of us: not great either.

Answer: Nothing good

For me, I've noticed the degradation in my physical abilities since I started my desk job 3.5 years ago, to the point where right now stress and injury have made me subject to daily pain and discomfort that distract me almost every waking hour.

That makes it frikkin' difficult to concentrate, sucking my mental and physical energy away from things I need to get done outside of work like writing and my business. Being constantly in pain can't be masked, and is a stressor in itself: being wary of a misstep that might cause re-injury, or worrying about the pain I'm already in, can exacerbate breathing / tension issues I'm already experiencing. Being over 40 doesn't help either:


Still, there's hope: I've made progress in other areas through determination and research( greatly-reduced anxiety / chest pains almost gone, and more )so I know that I can DO this: I just have to work at things patiently through trial and error until I find a pattern that works for me in my current daily life.


Nov 24 – Sore Core

My five-day week caught up to me today.

By the end of my workday, my solar plexus was feeling sore and a few hours after I got home, I was having trouble sitting up straight without using my arms...

Yet again, my core's shown itself to be just too weak for my needs. So I'm doing these starting this week, gently and slowly at first:


As for the levels of discomfort, it's not as bad as it was four months ago, when I could barely function without a tensor-wrap and shooting pains: being uncomfortable at the end of a long work week is an improvement, by any measure, and I have to keep telling myself that instead of obsessing over it turning back into those agonizing pains again. 

Blogging about it helps: setting down things here means they're OUT of my head, and I can move on.

I'm choosing to take this discomfort as a warning sign: I need to exercise, to get back in the pool despite my nagging inability to make my leg tendons heal up properly. Swimming has to be something I do regularly and generally, instead of just being afraid of injury myself further: I'm down to about 4K steps a day with my cane, and even at 10K steps, I wasn't doing any aerobic for strength building exercises, just walking... which isn't enough to stay healthy.

The longer I go without exercise, the worse it's going to get.


Nov 25 – No Excuse

I've got a day job, and I'm plugging away at my passions... slowly.


It's a grind, and I'm feeling it more this year than any other, given my health. There's books to write, a home business to set up, and a ton of other small projects I've love to devote time to, but can't find the mental mojo most days to make it matter. Nothing's broken upstairs, but the body is weak, as they say.

Still, there's hope: some people are doing it even with a day job, and aren't afraid to share their experiences:


I did notice that the person above doesn't mention their health, and I'm assuming that they're in decent shape given that they mention they have 'lots of energy' daily: the two kind of go hand in hand.

Ten years ago, I had more energy too, and as I got into shape from riding around Victoria, I had even more, until I injured my arms and quite my MMart job.

But: I was there once, and I can get there again. Just take one step after the other...


Nov 26 – Winning / Losing / Learning

Ah, games...

One of the joys of my life at the moment is playing boardgames: my lady and I spent a few hours every weekend playing through our collection and thoroughly enjoying each other's company as we match wits.

To my chagrin, I lose to her more often than not in certain games, despite my efforts though she was kind enough last weekend to point out some of my flawed strategies so I could learn. Which I appreciated, because I discovered something else about myself this year:

When I win, it's a fleeting joy... because I take losing, even a boardgame, really hard... and that's made me wonder why I feel like that when a loss occurs.


Thinking about it in depth this month, I know there's an aspect of pride involved, but I believe the central tenet comes down to one thing: the domino effect. When I lose, especially several times in a row, all the things that I haven't accomplished well up in my subconscious and beat up my brain. Kind of like the phrase 'misery loves company' - my failures line up and seemed to extend in a cloud all around me, blocking off my successes and my joys suddenly and completely.

Which is silly, because it's just a game, and I can always play again.


Still, the fact remains that I get upset too easily: I'm not a sore loser, but a poor winner, in that I don't pay enough attention to how I've won, because I'm supposed to be relaxing(and)and when I lose, I can't accept that my strategies failed.

Now that I've recognized this aspect of my psyche and given it some good thought, I think I'll be much better balanced when I'm playing. As I mentioned last week, I'm consciously refraining my winning losing as enjoyment / learning in my mind, so my subconscious doesn't beat me up when I lose... and I can enjoy the small thrills of victory when they happen.

Which will be more often in the future.


Not much of an afterword: four days of working during the day, four evenings of writing while easing my body, then a three-day weekend to catch up on everything I missed getting to wherever any of the above didn't mesh. Status quo!