Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas, Crafting and Cool Chance

The word of the week is abstract.

Dec 21 – Traditions

What's everyone up to for the holidays this year?

As time passes and I get back to Ontario less and less, I wonder how much has stayed the same there when it comes to this time of year.

Normally, my family and I would make the rounds of are two sides of the family: the big Italian side and the much smaller British/Polish half on my mom's side. Usually we go over to my aunt's place during the day, to mix and mingle with my many cousins and aunts and uncles - upwards of 50 people on and off would drop in most years. Then it be over to my grandparent's place for the evening, where there would just be the nine of us.

It was quite a contrast, yet one that I appreciated for all the differences: big and loud versus small and intimate, both laced with the sentiments that always come with close family.

Then there's getting together with friends, which is more of a hit and miss thing when it comes to the holidays. Usually different groups of us ended up getting together at the kilt a few times in December, to simply relax and enjoy the ambiance of being in a cozy warm bar with a fireplace, good music and good friends. That's a whole different aesthetic and one that I've come to appreciate all the more for its lack most years I've been here in BC.

Maybe it's past time to start my own tradition here?

Dec 22 – Paperships

What goes around comes around.

Back when I was a young lad of five years old or so, I was given a series of small gifts that I didn't really appreciate at the time. A student in one of my mother's classes that she was teaching at the time like to make paper spaceships, amazingly detailed creations with many folds and artwork made with felt markers. According to my mother, he knew that I loved spaceships and so created about a half a dozen of these fragile masterpieces for her to bring home to me over the course of the year he was in her class.

Being a somewhat unappreciative young guy, I didn't take that great care of them and so I don't have even a single fragment of one of these unique creations today. I do remember that one of them was actually two spaceships that docked together, which at the time I thought was really cool and I hope contributed to my creative mindset in some way.

 Back to the present, and the art of papercraft.

I'm no artist: I need a ruler to draw a straight line and I'm limited to creating only the most simple of paper airplanes. All the same, I know that there's a lot of places out there where I can find instructions to create paper objects of startling complexity, should I be so inclined... though I'm not all that interested in creating a fleet of aircraft.

However, I wouldn't mind a few spacecraft to hang from my ceiling.

In one of my Babylon 5 FBook groups, a generous soul has again stepped up to impress: he's made numerous paper models of ships from the B5 universe available to anyone who wants them, free! Based on the Papercraft concept, all you have to do is download the file for a particular ship, opened up in a word processor and print it! If you use thick paper and a color printer, along with a steady hand the results can be spectacular:

I'm going to add these sorts of models to my 'Get To It in 2016 Sometime' list and see if I can get more than three or so done by the end of this coming year. It's orders of magnitude cheaper, and far easier, than trying to create models from plastic or resin kits - the painting alone would put me off such endeavors. I'm going to start small of course, with some simple designs that are available and go from there. 

I think the lad inside my head would like that.

Dec 23 – Nice And Quiet

Work's been quiet this week.

Today especially. Normally we answer hundreds of calls in a day but today we only had a few dozen: extremely quiet and it allowed us to get a fair amount of work done that we wouldn't normally manage of a day.

This time of year, that's a good thing.

Everyone's busy during the holidays, shopping galore preparing for family visits or whatever else it is that makes one's seasonal holidays special. Having worked in retail for as many years as I have, things would've built to a fever pitch right about now for many shoppers. Running around with lists of people that you have to buy for but still haven't found the perfect gift yet means you're just setting yourself up for the recipe for stress stew.

I'm really glad that my family switched over years ago to the 'less is more' philosophy for gift-giving for Christmas. Having shed so much stuff as it was to move to BC in 2007, it just seemed natural to go for a few small things and knowledge stress out about searching for a material representation of how much we cared for one another. Caring for others should never be expressed in terms of dollars spent.

Spending time with your family is what the holidays are all about, I think.

Dec 24 – Tech and Tabletz

Just in time for Christmas, my 'gift' to myself arrived.

The Pioneer Elite CLD-79 was sitting a large box in my front hall when I got home from work today - yay! I unpacked it, marveling at the incredible padding job the seller had done on it: in addition to a two-inch-thick bubblewrap player around the sides, he had actually stuffed a full-size pillow underneath and on top of the unit for ultimate protection! While I don't have any laserdiscs on hand to test out the unit, I did play the CD though the speakers and it sounded wonderful. I can hardly wait to watch a movie on it!

It's a little weird though, getting a 20-year-old piece of tech for Christmas. Fun!

On a related technological note, I've restored my ASUS TF300T tablet back to its original state with Android 4.4. The experiment with getting Android 5.1 running on it will have to wait a few more months until I can figure out why it kept boot-looping itself. I may even try to contact the creator of the ROM file to see if there are any suggestions, though I'll be browsing the forums first to try and see if anyone else has had the same problems I did.

I really would like to fix the tablet, as I could very much use its capabilities as an e-book reader as well is a generally fun platform to play games on the 10-inch screen. It's a lot easier with my new glasses to see my 5.7-inch phone, but all the same I'd rather have a larger screen to use. It's just so frustrating with the lag the performance of the tablet under Android 4.4 ...

Dec 25 – Not Home For Christmas

Occasionally, I'll wonder what Christmas would've been like nowadays, in the home I remember growing up in during the 1970s and the 80s. I certainly wouldn't have had much room in my original bedroom and would likely have had to have a bedroom built in the basement as one of my friends did years ago... though there wasn't much room down there to begin with.

There would've been a wood fire burning in the fireplace downstairs in the family room, with a tree in the corner and a piano dominating the room. I'm sure by now we would've had a larger TV on the opposite wall and there would be snow covering the slope of the backyard outside the sliding glass doors. It would have been warm and cozy and quite Christmas-y, but I don't know that my family ever would've stayed there that long as we would have outgrown the house long before today.

I know I can't go back to that home for Christmas any more, but that doesn't bother me much anymore.

This year, for Christmas dinner my family and my girlfriend and I all went out to John's Place, which was one of the few restaurants open this evening in the city.

It was also the best choice for a turkey dinner, bar none!

Unsurprisingly, the restaurant was busy but not crowded, which was nice for the serving staff I imagine as they were working to capacity as it was. It took a while to get our order in because of that but it was certainly worth the wait: a splendid serving of turkey dinner arrived for most of us( it was lasagna instead for my non-meat lady ) with excellent portions. Stuffing, spicy squash, mashed potatoes, gravy, both dark and light meat and other savories graced the perfectly proportioned plate... and every bite was delicious.

Not having to spend hours today cooking as well as cleaning up meant we could all just relax and enjoy one another's company; it's really the way to go for special family dinners these days for us. It was extra special this year being able to share it with my girlfriend, who would normally have gone over to the US to visit her parents for Christmas but instead stayed here to share the holiday with my family.

It was wonderful.

Dec 26 – Making Space

Boxing Day was a bust.

Much like Black Friday this year, there wasn't a single thing that I felt was worth my time and effort to get today - in terms of price, let alone in terms of actual need.

It's kind of sad, really, when sales aren't really sales and deals are simply 'good prices' for the most part. I've seen better bargains on eBay for new items and the Flyers this year were universally 'meh' across the board: nothing and nowhere had anything I was interested in whatsoever. Wallet safe, I popped onto Steam and bought a few $3 or $5 games that I've been waiting to see drop in price; almost all Steam games today were at least 50% off and most of the games I bought were discounted more than that.

In the early evening, my girlfriend and I set up a game of Eclipse!

In case you're not familiar with the boardgame, it's a space-strategy hybrid that perfectly mixes resource gathering with space combat: right up my alley! I managed to snag a used-once copy for $55 on eBay, which is half of what it costs new at retail - bargain of the year! 

After an initial hour of head scratching and rules-checking, we got our heads around how the play and really started enjoying ourselves. The game is limited to eight rounds total, and this mechanic means that you really have to plan out what you're going to do or risk running out of time before you can execute your strategy to the fullest. I ended up losing by a wide margin because while I was far ahead economically, I didn't actually fight any battles and so my victory point tally was only half that of my girlfriend's: oops.

All the same, it was a blast to play and I hope we can do it again on Monday!

Dec 27 – Zined

While browsing around a bookshop today, I found something magnificent.

Magazine-nificent, that is.

It's been many years since I last purchased a magazine, of which I used to collect a fair number regularly: Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Starlog, Amazing Stories( while it lasted, far too briefly ), Computer Gaming World, PC Magazine, Omni and others. In the days before the internet, they were the best way to keep up with what I was interested in and I always look forward to getting new issues from the newsstand or in the mail.

About the time I started university, the Internet came into play and my interest in magazines dwindled. Not coincidentally, the quality of the content also changed and in my opinion, not for the better: Popular Mechanics became a shell of what it once was.

So, magazines are rarely interesting to me these days.

Which is why when my eye was drawn to one particular magazine on the rack at Munro's this morning, I was given pause by the title: The Ultimate Guide to Robots and Spaceships! Intrigued, I picked it up and flipped to a random page, only to be startled again: there was a Starfury from Babylon 5!


Taking a tea-break at Murchie's nearby with my girlfriend, we flipped through the pages and marveled at how much there was within its pages. The creators were obviously huge scifi g33ks and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be given the green-light on this kind of unique project. I've read hardcover books with less quality content then this magazine, though I definitely paid more than a magazine price for this unique 148-page issue. 

It's finding gems like these that makes me smile at how lucky I am sometimes. Considering that I found the whole bunch of book-treasures last week, finding this magazine today is just icing on top of the cake. Sweet!

BONUS: I finally located my DVD of Dragon Naturally Speaking 11, and managed to install it without a hitch on my desktop. At last, my voice recognition is working properly, so I can blog with ease!

I'm on day 3 of my 4-day extended weekend: thanks to how Christmas and Boxing Day combined this year, I get Monday the 28th off! And, if all goes well, I'll be able to work just this Tuesday, then use a banked Vacation Day to get Wednesday off... then, having my EDO early because New Year's Day is Friday, means I get the rest of the week off - with pay. It's the first time in my life I'll have worked a 1-day work week at full pay without anything weird or unfortunate going on, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of my downtime.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Crepes, Critiques and Childhood Cinema Magic

The word of the week is ecstatic.

Dec 14 – Tummy Yummy!


I say that with enthusiasm and delight, because of a discovery I made today.

Across the street from where I work, a tiny little new restaurant opened last month called Heavenly Crepes. There’s room enough inside for the cooking area, three tables and a window bar-seat: that’s it. It’s cute and cozy and quite conveniently located, so I checked it out for lunch.

Now, I love crepes, having discovered them at the long-gone Magic Pan chain of restaurants in ON as a kid: yummy! More flavourful and delicate than an omlette, crepes have been somewhat of a rarity for me since my teen years, as few places in ON or BC serve them on their menus.

So, it was a real treat today to wander in and order a crepe, with spinach and feta cheese. I waited only a few minutes while wonderful smells wafted from the crepes as they cooked… then the owner neatly folded a large piping-hot crepe into a cone-holder for me to take with me – for just $7.00 all-in!

As I walked the short distance back to work, I waited a minute for the crepe’s exposed top to cool, then took a bit… and had to stop from the delightful savoury taste that filled my mouth! It was sweet, enough so that I worried it was heavy on sugar( turns out they aren’t! )and soft like a chewy cheese-filled sponge – perfect! I finished off the crepe in stages over my lunchtime as it cooled, enjoying every bit.

It’s going to be hard not to go more than once a week, I tell you..

Dec 15 – Crucial Critique

Another great critique group meeting tonight.

I can’t overstate how useful these monthly sessions are to my writing, both in terms of quality and just plain inspiration. Sitting down regularly with three other writers in a constructive, supportive and non-judgmental gathering is a fantastically rare thing, a fact we all appreciate.

And they liked my chapter this week as well, in numerous ways.

One of the biggest boosts to my muse was being told that ALL the characters are well-realized and interesting, enough so that the others in my critique group always wonder when more info will appear in new chapters about them. They( my friends )say that I’ve done an excellent job of juggling all the story threads so that we find out just enough about what’s happening with each group before moving on to the next thread, leaving the reader wanting more without feeling disappointed.

That’s a hard, hard thing to get right, and I’m incredibly happy that I’m managing to do it.

Giving feedback is just as important, and again I felt I managed to get that part right, too. One of the chapters I critiqued tonight included an event that stopped my reading dead, I was so taken aback: I couldn’t believe the characters involved would do such a thing, and I said so when it was my turn to speak. I stressed that as a writer, I understood why the author would choose that path, but as a reader, I was appalled… and I suggested the reasons why. In addition, I talked over the possibilities of working around the ‘block’ as I perceived it, in terms that allowed the other writer to build on and alter their story in such a way that seemed correct to both them and we others.

In the end, we made each other’s stories better, without harming any egos and without straying too far from each other’s visions of what our work should embody.

Addendum: one of the writers messaged me later in the week with something that made me grin ear to ear. She said she’d been telling one of her co-workers( she works at a local self-publishing firm )about something she’d read in a book lately that she’d found inspiring, but couldn’t quite place where she’d read it. After some thought, she realized that it was a few lines from MY most recent chapter that we’d reviewed this week, that had stuck in her head! She immediately messaged me… and that, friends, is how authors stay inspired in their writing!

Dec 16 – Less Ouch

My head’s been better lately.

Which comes as a surprise to me, given the big weather shifts we’ve been having here in Victoria this winter. There have been several big storms come through, by which I mean quantities of rain have soaked Vancouver Island when each low-pressure system has moved in from the open sea.

Normally, that’s bad for my head, or at least it was up until this year.

I have barometers at home and at work, to help keep an eye on the weather as it develops so as to give warning when my head’s most likely to feel like it’s an expanding – or collapsing – balloon. I do miss having a barometer on my phone, but that capability was lost when my S3 was damaged.

Treating the headaches is the other half of the equation and that’s where things have changed.

I used to take Tylenol tablets, sometimes Advil, at the first signs of a major pressure change to help stave off migraines. I’ve taken such medication less and less since coming to Vancouver Island, mainly because the weather here has been so moderate, most seasons: it’s a rarity for the air pressure to drop quickly, or rise rapidly.

Still, I do get headaches, from combinations of things like noise, bright lights and the usual culprit, weather changes. But I haven’t needed to take more than 1 set of medication in a day this last year, for some reason, and I think it may be due to the lack of medication I’ve been needing since moving to BC.

Good news for my head, since the less I take, the more effective it is!

Dec 17 – Busy Holi-Days

The holiday season can get pretty busy, sometimes.

Take today, for example: we had our potluck lunch at work, then I went out for the evening.
The potluck was magnificent, with five long tables running the length of one walkway hall holding an enormous amount of food. Which is a good thing, as we have nearly a hundred people now on staff and the last potluck we had ran out of food before the final ten people were called up to eat.

No chance of that today – heck, we still had turkey left over when everyone was finished!
The best part of the potluck, aside from the food, was being able to sit down and talk with people while a few other folks covered phones for a bit. While any workplace has its share of socializing, ours has rather minimal levels due to the levels of work we have to complete on a daily basis, and today was a welcome reprieve from that for a little while.

After work, I held a social for my writer’s group.

Which didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. For a month now, various group members have been asking for a social night to celebrate the holidays together, and tonight was to be the night. I’d sent out invites the week before, picked a place( Garrick’s Head pub )and got a nice big table all set for people to show.

Only two of them did. The rest? Who knows.

Mind you, it was still a good eve, as the two writers who showed up were both personable and enthusiastic about writing. Not to mention happy to listen to my answers to their questions about writing in general, as they were both fairly new to the group and writing in general. I spent a few hours in their enjoyable company, then headed home, feeling pleased that despite the lack of numbers, a social seasonal evening had still gone well indeed.

Dec 18 – STAR WARS!!!

Today was awesome in every way… even the timing! NO SPOILERS BELOW!

As my regularly scheduled day off, t worked out perfectly: I could wake up a little later and have breakfast with my lady before spending a leisurely day Doing Needed Things and then heading to Langford to see The Force Awakens for an evening showing.

While at breakfast, I checked out some other showtimes on the Cineplex app out of curiosity… and was stunned to see that there were two perfect seats still left for sale for the 12:45pm showtime – even better than the seats I had purchased back in October before they all ran out!

With slightly trembling fingers, I logged into the app and bought the seats, wondering if I’d be in time to get them all the while… and success! I was seeing the latest Star Wars film early today!

Turns out I’d made the right choice.

The seats were almost dead-center in the theatre, slightly to the left-hand side and perfectly placed to enjoy the movie on the giant UltraAVX screen. I couldn’t believe our luck in getting these fantastic seats on the day after the movie opened… and the audience was incredible. Nobody made a peep apart from the times that the movie elicited a reaction: no cheers, catcalls, loud questions from younger moviegoers, nothing: just a rapt, attentive and appreciate audience full of fans. My friend that I sold the evening show’s tickets to later said that he had the exact opposite experience –whew!

And what did I think of the movie? In a word: fantastic.

It was a return to form for the franchise, a film that embodied the feel-good fun fantasy of the first three movies. While I don’t think it was by any means perfect, I’d give it an 8.5 /10 overall: it lost points for not explaining, even a little, some of what I considered crucial story points needed by the audience. It is, after all, many years after the first film( Han and Leia are old, after all… )and we can use some pointers as to what’s happened in all that time – more than the film gives us, at least.

The action was heart-pounding, and while many of the F/X were CGI, a huge number were old-school practical effects and sets. This really grounded the film in all the good ways an epic should be: everything had a substance, a believability to it that came through on the screen.
As did the chemistry of the cast. One and all, I liked the casting choices, even that of Kylo Ren.

One bummer was that one plot point had been spoiled for me before seeing the film, thanks to a spoiler grenade: TFA movie spoilers scattered by assholes all over the comments sections of random posts everywhere on the ‘net:

I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say, I hope that there’s a special place in g33ky hell that's reserved for the scum who delight in spoiling things for other people just because they can.

In any case, I loved the film and I’ll probably see it again soon, though not before the theatre crush dies down a bit. Strangely, I don’t feel the need to see it as pressing as I did Guardians Of the Galaxy, perhaps because Star Wars is such a known quantity to me that I feel I can wait a bit for it.

Dec 19 – Binomes and Battleship!

Today I opened up my copy of Battleship Galaxies and played my first game.

The game itself is high-quality in every regard, coming with 20 plastic miniatures including stands, two high-quality hex gaming boards and sundry parts. There is also a glossy full-colour graphic novel, rule book and dice. The object of the game is to wipe out the enemy ships, playing one of five included scenarios. Shamefully, Hasbro pulled the plug on the game line before any of the planned expansions could be created, leaving players in a bit of a lurch – I’ll have to search out a few online forums were BG players lurk to see if there are any fan-made rules out there still.

Setup took about 20 min. to set up, as we weren't familiar with everything yet. Once we got into the swing of things, it started to make sense, though I personally thought the ISN( the good guys )had a rather underpowered main ship compared to the enemy.

My battleship, at bottom, before it all went wrong...

About an hour later, the ISN had been wiped out, despite my efforts. My girlfriend said she enjoyed the game and noted that I had kept missing her ships with my attacks, while hers kept hitting – my usual luck with the dice, this time with enemy ship hit locations. I think next time we play( a different scenario too )we’ll keep track of the shots to see who hits more often and with what.

After our space battle, we watched a few more episodes of ReBoot.

I’ve been enjoying introducing my girlfriend the show, one of my favourite shows of all time. To date, we’ve caught up to the middle of the third season, which is where things get really interesting. I won’t spoil the show for those of you who haven’t seen it, and I suggest that you find a copy of all 4 seasons( or eBay usually have more than a few copies )so as not to miss this gem of a show. It’s rare that an animate TV series gets better with every season, but in this case ReBoot manages to excel in every aspect of the storyteller’s craft to bring incredible depth to what many have dismissed as a kid’s show.

It’s not, as of the third season. Go watch it.

Dec 20 – Booking It

I spent the morning with my girlfriend, and we decided to get out for a bit after breakfast…. Just because. I think we were both feeling a bit of the holiday spirit in some way, and wanted to see how the rest of the city was handling things along those lines.

We took a detour downtown, as the sun was out for a bit and we ended up in Russell Books – always a dangerous place for me and my wallet!

What a trove of treasures I discovered there!

First off was a copy of Built to Last, which is a 2010 compendium of three stellar illustrated books by David Macaulay that I loved as a child. Castle, Cathedral and Mosque were all books created over 40 years ago as illustrated introductions to the wonders of medieval architecture in Europe and the Middle East. Better yet, all of the original drawings were carefully updated by Macaulay to correct minor errors from the originals and made into colour illustrations to boot – amazing!

Castle in particular is near and dear to my heart, as it was the first book on medieval castles that I ever read. It’s not a long or complicated read, but it perfectly captures what it must have been like to build a castle and live there so long ago. It’s stayed in my head ever since and now I have it on my shelf, along with the two other wonderful books that are new discoveries for me. Hooray!

As well, I found copies of other books I’ve been searching for, for some time – more treasures! Copies of the other two of the three Lando Calrissian Adventures, of which I’ve only been able to find one in all these years of searching. A copy of Crimson Skies, based on a video game I lived and it’s a book I didn’t know existed! Additionally, I found a perfect copy of the Wonderbook, which is a beautifully illustrated guide to creating fiction that I’d seen this past summer in a small bookshop while visiting the States. Lastly, I picked up a minty copy of The Virtues Of War, the first edition of my friend Ben Coles’ first science fiction novel which is now published by a press in London UK.

Great finds all, and wandering around the bookstore with my girlfriend was a treat unto itself, as she loves books as much as I do, with some similar tastes. We’ll have to do this again soon, though not before my wallet has a chance to recover somewhat…

I tried to hook up my Dragon Naturally Speaking on my laptop to a Bluetooth microphone, but the results were… mixed – literally. Every fifth word was garbled and the software seemed to be lagging a lot more than when it ran on my desktop, so I abandoned the effort for this week’s entry and will try again to get DNS installed on the ol’ blue monster this week. I sure miss the convenience! As well, I’m going to bed tonight a bit perturbed, as my nose and part of one cheek are slightly swollen red and I’ve no idea why…

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Sweaters, Solstice and Space Games

The word of the week is fraught.

Dec 7 – Smart

It’s getting busier around here.

This week at work, I’m off phones completely, having been re-tasked to incoming email. With almost 500 emails a day, that’s no small job, especially as each email can have a multitude of attachments that have to be printed and checked, not to mention questions to respond to.

Busy, busy. But it’s a job and everyone on my team’s highly capable, so I’m not feeling overwhelmed in unfamiliar territory. It’s great to be surrounded by such stellar folks, day to day.

One other thing I’ve been doing lately is watching NetFlix, on and off, on my TV. Not the way you’d think however: I’m doing it the Smart way.

My TV is a 4-year-old Samsung SmartTV, with built-in apps( more can be downloaded and most are not worth it, )which on the whole I’ve found little use for, as I have a PC hooked up to it which does everything faster and better. SmartTV’s, while a neat idea, are on the whole clunky and slow.

However, there is a Neflix app, which actually works rather well. I can get into Netflix in about 30 seconds and once there, it’s a stable and glitch-free experience – unlike on a PC, which can be subject to stutters, stops and other influences unless you shut down all other programs( and then some ). With the SmartTV app, it’s a blissful experience free of distractions, which I’ve come to appreciate this month.

My show of choice has been Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a recent animated series that goes back to the basics: action and adventure! No brooding Dark Knight here, though: Batman’s lifted from the pages of the 60’s comics, with well-defined Heroes and Villans both doing what they do best. I’m finding it a welcome reprieve from the more recent decades of conflicted anti-heroes and murky-grey villains, which has grated some days on my writerly muse.

Fun to watch, and relaxing in many ways. I’m going to enjoy this.

Dec 8 – Virtual Journey

Last week, something wondrous appeared on the internet.

Rather than the typical cute-cat video or gross-out prank, this was something… magical: A virtual tour of Machu Picchu – by Google Streetview, no less! Instead of travelling thousands of miles, trekking through rough terrain and up mountains, you can now explore this cultural treasure from the comfort of your own home… big-screen TV recommended!

Incredibly, one of my friends from ON has been a few years ago and I’d love to be able to ask her what she thought, though our social circles seem to have drifted apart since. I, for one, have always dreamed of visiting this particular place, so far removed from the modern world and spectacularly preserved. I despaired of ever seeing it in the next 20 years though, by which time I may not be in good enough shape to make the journey – now I don’t have to worry.

I’d still like to go though – anyone with me?

Dec 9 – Space Battleship!

I found a new boardgame today – an old one, too, at that.

Battleship Galaxies, released by Hasbro in 2011, is a 2-player game based loosely on the old Battleship game that we all knew and loved. This new gaming is a different beast, one that is played on a hex grid and utilizes miniatures, though the little colored pegs are still there.

Amazingly, I managed to find a brand-new copy for sale on Ebay at about half the cost of what it is currently going for on, which I wasn’t willing to pay for an unknown game, despite glowing reviews. Pretty good timing on my part, I have to say!

Unfortunately, it appears that Hasbro, in their usual wisdom, decided to cancel all of the planned expansions for BG, leaving the game a bit of an orphan. It looks like there were quite a few interesting things planned for the series, but for whatever reason, nothing else was produced.

I’m excited to get my hands on BG when it arrives next week for a test-drive!

Dec 10 – Sweater!

I was a tree today.

More specifically, a Christmas tree. It was Ugly Seasonal Sweater day today at work, and I spent a few hours last night putting together my own hard-on-the-eyes version of an USS( aka an Ugly Christmas Sweater )thanks to some bargain shopping at the local dollar store. I think it turned out great:

I did have the thought to add music to the ensemble, but not until I was already at work today and couldn’t spare the time to hunt down a very-seasonal-tune or two to play on my cell phone. What you also don’t see in the picture above is a bunch of ornaments dangling above my head from a wooden bar. They made it awkward to move and somewhat eye-pokey for unwary co-workers, but the overall effect was stunning – though I personally feel that the star taped to my hat really sets things off.

Bonus: Here’s a picture of last year’s USS, replete with white tree branch attached to my back( sorry about the blurry quality! ):

As well this evening, I have a presentation on Poetry to my writing group, of which I’m quite proud: not being even an amateur poet, I nailed it completely and again had attendees saying how much they enjoyed the session. It’s always uplifting to know that I’ve sparked some creative parts for other writers with the material I research and present on, every few months. Most gratifying!

Dec 11 – A New Home

The New York Times had something nice to say about Canada today. Specifically about our reaction to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in an article that lauds our action over the USA’s internal state-by-state bickering over what to do.

It heartens me to see articles like this, because they show how the world sees Canada... and how I hope most Canadians also see our shared country. It also saddens me that too many people, not just Canadians, would prefer to close the doors to all, for the fear that a tiny few may 'cause trouble' - which is wrong.

That way lies the road to fear, to becoming an insular and untrusting nation.
We, not just the world, have to realize that the vast majority of us want to live in peace, to pursue our dreams along with the ones we love. To live in fear of the few among us who do not share those dreams sullies the future for all.

Canadians, and all others around the world, must do what we can to see the change we want to take place actually happen. To live our lives as examples, to step forward and embrace those who ask for, and need, our help.

To those who would do nothing, I ask you this: how long can you live in a house with all the doors and windows shut tight, before you realize the freedom you want to preserve has become an illusion?

Dec 12 – Restoration

Most of my day was spent on the internet on my updated Win10 PC, tweaking and fixing and installing things. I’m rather liking the new OS overall, as it’s fast and seems quite stable. The ‘slow’ feel of the computer is gone, though it’s still nowhere near optimized – I’ll need another month or two to get it exactly the way I want it, with everything I want and need installed.

In the evening I attended a retreat of sorts, a small gathering at a friend’s house to welcome in the Winter Solstice – a bit early, but that’s scheduling for you. We relaxed, chatted about things we wanted to let go for the coming year, and enjoyed one another’s company… followed by some lovely snacks and even a bit of wine.

The highlight of the evening was the fire, for me at least.

I haven’t lived in a place with a real fireplace for going on almost 20 years, not since my days living outside of town in Ontario with my family. At that large ‘country’ house, we had TWO wood-burning fireplaces, one on each floor of the living room / family room and they were part of a wall-to-wall brick installation – spectacular! I spent quite a few cold winter nights tucked under a comforter on the old couch downstairs, a fire merrily burning while I watched shows on the then-new Space Channel… it was a happy time for me, so similar to my childhood home that also had a fireplace in the downstairs family room.

This evening, I took charge of the fire and brought it from a faint flicker up to a roaring blaze, that soon settled down into a merry crackler that warmed more than half the house with ease. Everyone there told me I had ‘the fire touch’ and that pleased me no end. Even the fire seemed happy to have me tending it: when I first got the blaze going, I saw a dozen tendrils of flame rill along the front log, as though the fire was happily caressing the wood with bright fingers of fire. I’ve never seen a fire do that before, and the image will stay with me a good long while…

Keeping me warm. A great night!

Dec 13 – More Work Ahead

Most of what I did today was tedious, but necessary.

After installing Windows 10 on my desktop PC earlier in the week, it fell to this weekend to install all the programs I’m used to using, one by one. I was chagrined to find that while my WHS( Windows HomeServer )is magnificent for saving files, it’s not an all-encompassing backup solution – all the files are saved individually, not as a Disk Image, so I can’t just re-load all the programs in the exact state of installation they happily existed in before I popped in the new drive.

Nope. Manual installs, all the way, which means time.

By the evening, I had most of the regular things installed without issue. Web browsers, utilities, email clients( Thunderbird! )along with drivers and even MS Office: everything I need to use the PC on a daily basis. Drop

All the rest will have to come in time. As I mentioned yesterday, I hope to copy over my previous software installs intact, one by one, using one of a few programs I am looking at online. That way I preserve their licenses, many of which I’ve received from or – if I try to reinstall them, those keys won’t be valid any more, which would suck. Unfortunately, all of the transfer programs I’ve found so far extremely expensive, so unless I find one for around $30 CAN or so, I’ll try to figure out how to use Windows Easy Transfer to get my applications moved over.

And that’s not even counting the game installations, which will have to wait – I just don’t have time right now, though I admit using Steam to install most of the games will greatly simplify things. Good thing I have an unlimited internet cap now with Juce, as I foresee some massive gigabytes being downloaded in the next while…

It’s hard typing up the blog this week without Dragon Naturally Speaking; while there’s speech recognition that comes with Windows10, it’s slow and limited to about 20 words at a time. As I don’t have the latest version of DNS, I can’t download it from their site, so I’m reduced to hunting down a copy from the internet that’s safe to install – no small task, that. Hopefully by next week I’ll have it up and running again, with some effort – typing with my hands is painful after a week spent off the phones at my day job!