Sunday, 21 June 2015

Vacation, Videogame Visions and Vitality

The word of the week is relish.

June 15 – VACATION!     

The first paid day of my vacation was today!

Honestly, I just set aside today to relax and decompress. It's been a busy( and at times quite trying! )last few weeks at work and having managed to finagle 10 days total of vacation, at least one has to be a day of doing ‘nothing of consequence’ in my books.

One of the things I did do was to apply for another government position.

Whether that's of consequence or not remains to be seen. What's strange about working for the government is that ‘Movement is A Career’ and that's a mindset I've not managed to wrap my brain around yet. One’s position is fairly well defined in terms of job expectations but the position itself may change every few months depending on the needs of the particular department.

For folks in my position, which is admittedly fairly low on the career ladder, I can be re-tasked at any time( within my abilities, however )depending on what work needs doing and I’ll have little say in that: I will do what I’m told, which is only to be expected if I'm not my own boss.

Moving upwards and onwards is the name of the game and unlike traditional retail or commercial business, you can apply for as many positions as you like in as many ministries or departments as you like - locally or elsewhere. Obviously, you want to apply for positions that you at least have a chance of getting, depending on your qualifications and experience, but my mind is still boggled by the sheer number of positions a come up regularly, at least internally. There's a whole lot of shifting going on a regular basis: people come and go after only a year( sometimes even less ) which makes it harder to keep a cohesive team together that works efficiently.

The bottom line for me is: apply for positions with more responsibility and more pay. In my department, I’ve been told quite often that my skills and experience are in demand and that in no way should I stay in the position I am any longer than I have to.

I’m destined for better and brighter things, apparently; who might argue?

June 16 – Homeless Honesty?

Sometimes, karma does work.

As some of you may know, we have a large homeless population here in Victoria. It’s due to a number of factors, including the climate, local laws and a variety of other circumstances that cause homeless to see the city as a place of refuge or even opportunity, depending on the person. By and large, the homeless are polite, respectful and good people who are just down on their luck.

What you don't hear about often is that luck turning around for any of them, which is what I want to tell you about today.

Such was the case for a homeless man in Langford, about a 20 minute drive North of Victoria. He found a large amount of cash that had been lost by a local resident and turned it into the police rather than keep it for himself. I can't imagine how much more difficult it was for someone with no place to call their own to do such a thing; I think that many a citizen with a home to go back to that night would be hard-pressed to have done the same.

The local community has been touched by the act and to date, more than twice the amount of money that was turned in has been raised at a GoFundMe site to reward the honesty of the man.

I also hope that a selfless act like this will remind locals that the homeless are each unique, people worthy of treating with respect if such is returned and that there's always a reason, always a story behind what too many people take for granted we they see homelessness a daily basis.

June 18 – Cell-Shaded Glory!

Not much to say on this one except: whoa!

But to segue back to the beginning of my thought: why has it taken so long to get around to the merging of cartoons and video games?

Over ten years ago, the computer graphics power existed to do a decent job of letting polygons mimic the hand-drawn shapes of simpler cartoons. Robotech: Battlecry was released for the PS2, with cell-shaded graphics that closely mimic the aesthetic of the Robotech television series. It was the first game released that got it right: the suspension of disbelief was complete and gamers felt as though they were actually playing the cartoon - the experiment was successful! Have a look:

Yet even today, when you look at this exhaustive list of every game released that uses this technique, only a handful have come out after 2010. All the rest were made for older systems and it seems to me a crying shame that more capable modern hardware hasn't been harnessed to give cell-shaded games a comeback.

Well, except for one:

Transformers Devastation looks to be the cell-shaded dream game that fans of giant robot combat have been waiting for all these years. The screenshot above is only one of dozens that you can see HERE - it looks gorgeous and for the aesthetic alone I may pick it up( on sale, of course ) just to be able to gaze rapturously at the drool-worthy CGI cell-shading. To be sure, I'll also be holding onto my copy of Borderlands and Borderlands2 for a while!

There's also the nostalgia factor, which seems to be creeping into my posts of late, of being able to play the heroes( and villains too? )from my childhood.

One more reason to love gaming!

June 18 – Useful UPS?

Well, looks like UPS joined the digital connected age, finally. Why do I mention this? Is it important?

In a word: yes!

At least, it is if you don’t want to wait home all day, as usual, hoping for a delivery. Or, in my case, travel across town to get a package that’s somehow been assigned to a far-off pickup location. That’s happened twice to me already, and there was nothing I can do about it - until now.

It really seems like this, sometimes

At long last, UPS has introduced the MyChoice service, which allows customers with pending deliveries to choose where and how they want the package to come into their possession. With the advent of UPS Access Points( small businesses with limited package storage space )you can choose the AP closest to your work or home and not have to worry about staying home all day in order to receive a vital package. Or you can choose to still have home delivery and actually get a six-hour delivery estimate window to help you plan to be home at the right time.

Long story short, I was able to be home at the right time this week to receive the package necessary for an event this weekend that my sister is running. It all worked out rather well and I'm a lot less stressed about future deliveries made via UPS, in that I won't have to cycle across town or even worse, get a vehicle in order to transport any bulkier packages back to my home.

I just find it bizarre that it took UPS this long to figure out that the Internet could actually be useful on this matter and I hope that most other delivery carriers figure it out soon too.
I think we're all tired of waiting around.

June 18 – Peppermint? Pass!

My writing didn't go to plan today.

Last few days this week, I've managed to write almost a chapter a day for my second book, all part of my plan to use my staycation time to advance my novel a fair piece.

Today however, my mother wasn't available for dictation and it was the evening before I was able to do more than hunt and peck on the computer; creativity seem to have deserted me despite my efforts. I worked somewhat on my chapter outline but the scenes themselves wouldn't appear.

Sometimes characters talk to me and other times there's nothing but silence. Today was definitely a quiet day and I fumed a little inside at the unexpected lack of progress.

Ironically, in the evening I was blindsided by a scent, no less.

My new nemesis: Peppermint!

My sister was cleaning the bathroom as part of our weekly division of labor and she use a diluted quantity of natural peppermint essential oil instead of harsher chemicals. While I've smelled the sort of essential oil before, tonight I had a pretty severe reaction to its overpowering odor.

I grew lightheaded and nauseous, enough so that I had to spring open a window and sit in front of it while a fan pumped fresh air in. It was a good 15 minutes before I managed to regain enough equilibrium to stagger outside and take a half-hour walk to feel somewhat normal again. It was quite shocking to me the reaction I had, almost like being buried in 1 million Christmas candy canes and understandably, my sister won't be using peppermint extract again anytime soon.

Candy canes were never my favorite anyway.

June 19 – Perfection

My lady and I spent the entire day together. It was… wonderful. Breakfast, walks in the park, patios, model boating, conversation and quiet times: it was all the perfect mix and often it felt like time was standing still. Over 12+ hours spent solely in each other’s company and every minute was superbly sublime.

I did a little reflection today as well, about writing and scifi in particular.

There are many genres to writing, from horror to fantasy to mystery and all the other sub genres: so many that you could write a story in each and still not be done in a year’s time. Of all the genres however, I prefer to write science fiction. 

Yet why is that?

I've thought about it on and off over the years, looking for reasons both personal and practical yet not managing all of anything that really gelled for me. At least, not until I found this gem by prolific author David Gerrold:

Writing science fiction isn't just a labor of love, it's a way of being. You get to go anywhere in time and space. You get to visit other dimensions and other possibilities. You even get to visit other IMpossibilities. A science fiction writer is a literary time lord.
(All I need is the companion. Preferably a redhead, but I'm not picky.)
As rewarding as it might be to write a TV script or make a movie, as financially rewarding as those efforts might be -- there's something special about a book or a story that has your name on it, no one else's. You get to take the credit, you get to take the blame. But it's you alone -- it's your voice, your credential, your mark on the universe.

You can read the entirety of the post here, which mainly concerns itself with Gerrold’s experience on ST:TNG and how it relates to where he is today as a writer. It's a fascinating read and one that's validating of a writer's personal choices leading to the future that they create for themselves.

I don't think I could have written anything better than that.

June 21 – Long, Lovely Days

There were some more writing goodness this afternoon.
 A total of three scenes, or an entire chapter, made it onto the page today in the space of about two hours, which is a new speed record for me. I do tend to have shorter chapters in my books at around 3000 words or so, but today was a terrific sign that my Muse is feeling creative and comfy with daily output. I'll reach the nominal halfway point of my second book’s first draft in the next few days and that is a magnificent milestone for both my Muse and I.
It's also Father's Day today, for which I'm always grateful.

My dad's a fantastic guy, and I feel so fortunate to have him here in BC. He is a laid-back guy, with a solid core of loyalty and love that's never wavered for an instant throughout my life. I've never, ever entertain the thought that he couldn't be relied on to be there when we needed him, to view life with a sense of humor and do his best to provide his family with the life they could be proud of.

I could go on at length, but you get the idea: my dad’s a rare and special guy and I'm humbled to know that many of my core values, mannerisms, bits of wisdom and humor can all be traced back to his being there for me, always.

No son could ask for more.

Tonight is the summer solstice as well, and I spent it writing the blog. It’s still light in the sky at 10pm as I write this blog, it's colour fading every time I glance out the window to my right. I spent part of today with my lady and again the time seemed to simply vanish - all too quickly, we both felt. The perfect weather meant that a good part of that time was spent outside, running our model boat or simply walking along the southern coastline of the city under blue skies. The long summer nights here are not as warm as they are out East, as the cool southerly breezes coming from across the waters chill things down, though not so much that the bugs still don't come out to bite.

Only good things to say this week? Pinch me, I must be dreaming. On second thought: no, please… if this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up just yet… at least not until I know the endings of my next two novels!