Sunday, 26 July 2015

Advice, Arrows and Amigas

The word of the week is prodigious.

July 20 – Whither Summer?

The summer is going by very fast.

July is almost done and August will soon be here, though from the cool weather that's moved in the last week, you'd think that July was already over. No complaints though; it was far too hot previously and most everyone here on the Island is glad to see the rain this week.

It does make you wonder where the time goes, though.

Back when I didn't have a job, my days were still pretty full. I wrote, I thought, I searched for jobs and I took time to relax each day so as not to stress out about my lack of employment or other things that were affecting my life at the time. Each day was passed in its own time and for the most part, aside from the stress, I felt that I put in as much as I've gotten out of every day gone.

Right now things are full again, but in quite different ways. Having someone special in my life to care about means that I have to really think on how I'm spending my time. Priorities being what they are, along with my rather busy day job of late, I'm finding I'm lacking energy in the evenings to do much creatively and that's really been bothering me. To the point where my shoulders are all knotted up with stress and that's just compounding the issue. At least I can recognize it now, having spent years unconsciously stressing and not recognizing the physical signs.

There is no cure for it save conscious decision: to step up and make the best use of my time every day. Just like when I was completely unsure of the future of years ago and couldn't see myself in the position I am now: prepared to move into an even better phase of my life, one step at a time.

I just have to keep taking those steps, every day.

July 21 – Trek D├ęcor Extremis

If I owned a house, I sometimes wonder what it would look like inside.

After all, a man's home is his castle, as the saying goes and if I was a homeowner, I would have complete say over what the interior of my house would be. Maybe it would look like this guy’s place:

Steve Nighteagle has converted the interior of his Colorado cabin into the home of every Star Trek fans dreams. While it's a little much for a place that I would want to spend all my spare time in as a house, I still am agog at how complete the conversion is: it's only one step down from full-size starship interiors direct from any one of the films or television series.

My preference would be to build sets from Babylon 5, naturally, but those tended to be for the most part fairly light on cool gadgetry to please the eye. To be honest, I wouldn't build anything unless I want in a fairly huge amount of money, a which case I would have standing sets built from many of my favorite shows, including some cartoons - that's what being filthy rich is for right -  living your dreams? Being able to walk the decks, corridors and rooms of places that exist only in fiction would certainly qualify as one of my dreams and worth spending some of my money on, should it come to that.

In the meantime, I can live vicariously through the realized dreams of people like Steve.

July 22 – Slinging Arrows?

Don’t have any dodgeball leagues in your area? Is paintball too expensive?

Why not try archery tag?

My ears perked up this week when a few friends mentioned they were going to be playing at a new local gaming place called Clash Of Arrows. I used to be an archer, back in my university days( I still have my bow and arrows! )but haven’t had either the transportation or the scratch to join a local archery club, all of which meet well outside Victoria proper:

Clash of Arrows is located close to downtown, which places it within an easy cycle or bus ride. Two teams of archers take turns shooting well-padded arrows at each other, or at targets, trying to score points for a win. It looks like safe, fast-paced fun demanding a good deal of archery skilly, so I think that next time my friends are going, I will ‘tag’ along.

Sadly, they won’t let me bring my own bow.

July 23 – Amiga At 30

Has it really been 30 years?

The Amiga computer came out 30 years ago today, a machine that I far preferred to any PC of the time and still think of fondly for all that it was capable of. Imagine owning a machine that could play stereo sound as rich as an orchestra in an age when most personal computers could barely string two beeps together of different tones, or whose graphics consisted of a fantastic range of colors by the thousands compared to a limited few dozen other systems of the time.

If you're not familiar with the Amiga, it's worth your time to at least have a look at what the future looks like 30 years ago. I still have my Amiga and haul it out from time to time, though it's so sadly out of date that I can't do much more than browse nostalgically through the programs that I used to use and marvel at how elegant they still are in the usability and function. Here's a25th anniversary video by the celebrated Amiga enthusiast Eric Schwartz:

Incredibly, a good number of the games I used to enjoy on the Amiga had made their way over to Android, including classics like Battle Squadron and Another World. Dedicated developers have made software that was originally designed for the Amiga available now for android through programs like Amiga Forever, meaning lifelong fans like myself can still enjoy the classics on modern hardware like phones or tablets with minimal fuss.

Long live the Amiga!

PS - just to show how far and how fast hardware is developing, someone managed to run the original Half-Life on a WATCH!!! It’s even playable, though at that sort of screen size, you have to wonder who would bother other than those who simply want to see it running in the first place. That's the sort of challenge that keeps fans of older systems going, whose dedication and ingenuity I have to salute!

July 24 – R.J. Sawyer

More than a decade ago, I attended the 61st World Science Fiction Convention in Toronto in 2003.

There, I had the pleasure of seeing many fantasy and science fiction authors in person, garnering a wealth of experience that helped me to decide that I wanted to be numbered among their ranks someday. Terry Pratchett was there, along with Neil Gaiman, who read his memorable Hugo-award-winning short story “A Study in Emerald” to a mesmerized crowd that included yours truly.

One of the attending authors was Robert J Sawyer, author of almost 2 dozen novels, including Far-Seer, a stunning novel about sentient dinosaur-like aliens living on the moon of a gas giant. I've always liked Mr. Sawyer for his willingness to share his experiences as a Canadian author with other writers with the noble goal of helping everyone to understand how the business works.

In the most recent ( and excellent! )interview from, Robert J Sawyer gives some incredibly useful advice to amateur authors such as myself, hoping to make a living as writers in the speculative fiction field. Nuggets such as this one give me hope that I can turn my hard work into a living to carry me along year-to-year as I write my way through my life:

This is the sort of advice that you just couldn't get even 10 years ago without actually speaking to an author who had found success. Even more frustrating is that every writer can find success in a different way and with the landscape changing constantly given the proliferation of self-publishing and e-books, there's tons of new information that you have to sort through all the time for the few gems that might be useful to your particular situation.

Having somebody like Robert J Sawyer spell it out advice simply and make it easy to find on the Internet eases the uncertainty in finding my own success. I hope that I have the chance to express that to people like him in the future, once I have my feet firmly set on my own personal path.

July 25 – Alternative Toons

Since its Saturday today, let's talk cartoons!

Back in the 90’s, MTV’s Liquid Television was a strange, wonderful place, full of odd cartoon series like The Head and Aeon Flux. They were both fun and unsettling to watch, being unlike anything else on TV at the time.

The Maxx was another regular series on Liquid Television that fit that description, in spades:

The series is worth watching, as it deals with some serious issues while doing so with gorgeous animation and trippy plotlines. You can read about it here, but honestly, just watch it – I’m planning on revisiting it soon, when I can just sit down and do a rare binge-viewing of it.

To The Maxx!

July 26 – Thunder!

The clouds rolled in today – boy, did they ever!

A sun-and-cloud morning turned into an even cloudier lunchtime, with angry thunderheads moving in across the Island. It started to rain and in parts of the South Island, it poured, complete with hail:

Despite what you might think, this is a good thing. Vancouver Island dries out in the summer, with dead-brown lawns and tinder-dry trees everywhere, it’s been so dry for so long( Canada Day fireworks were cancelled in many parts of the Island )that rain like this is a welcome relief. I was actually awakened from an impromptu afternoon nap by a crash of thunder, which sounded like someone dropping a huge load of scrap metal onto the road a few blocks away – whoa!

Overall, the last week’s been rather tiring, as we switched over to a new phone system at work late last week. Oh and has many wonderful features and promises to make our job easier, the last two weeks have been fraught with bugs on top of getting used to the new system - nothing unexpected, really but it still means things have been doubly difficult on a daily basis when dealing with our usual issues related to regular operations. It also didn't help that the phone system went down completely on two separate instances, but hopefully those are the only major bugs we will have to face from this point onwards. There is much potential in the new system that I hope to see in full development soon.

In addition to being tired, the muscles in my legs have been rather painful for the last month for no particular reason. I've only ridden my bike twice and in both cases, my legs have felt like I've severely strained the muscles, which is baffling as I wasn't riding hard at any point. I've been taking it easy, to the point where I haven't trusted myself to bend my legs while bearing my full weight at any point without support, due to the way they've felt. I'll have to be sure to stretch from now on you for any bike rides, which boggles my mind. Hopefully that alleviates the issue.

This week coming up, I'm going to be writing every single night. My Muse has been unhappy with me lately as I've been unable to fully immerse myself in my fictional worlds so that I can write from that complete point of view. If I can't do that for a few hours every night, then my writing will not be nearly at the level that it needs to be in order for me to be happy with the end results.