Sunday, 8 November 2015

Decisions, Distractions and Determination

The word of the week is enlightened.

Nov 2 – Writin’ Weakly

It's a new month, and I'm not writing much.

There's been a lot on my mind lately, enough so that my mental processes have not been able to make much progress on my second book. It's been like that for several months, in truth and I'm disappointed to say that it doesn't look like I'll be able to refocus until sometime in 2016.

Hopefully sooner, rather than later, once I get all the plot tangles unsnarled for the second half of Book 2. I'm quite grateful to have a critique group who can help me with that, once I get everything organized( mentally and on paper )to show and work through any problems that crop up.

Some of my friends are participating in NaNoWriMo( National Novel Writing Month ) which started yesterday and runs for the entire month of November. The idea, in case you aren't familiar with it, is to write - along with tens of thousands of writers all over the world - to produce a minimum of 50,000 words in the month of November. This gives many writers the support and the encouragement they need not only to start but to finish such a massive undertaking.

It's not to say that I'll stop writing altogether, as has been the case when I hit a few speed bumps earlier this year and last. My current plan consists of getting through the rest of 2015 while setting up my business and putting work into individual chapters as I can, week to week.

2016 should see me return to regular writing, as I juggle the time budget between my business, writing the remainder of Book 2 and eventually revising Book 1 into a fourth draft that I will then send out sample chapters of two agents, seeking representation for publication.

Looking at things that way, it seems like the next year's going to be a busy and productive one for me. Toss in a personal life and a day job and even the time I set aside every week to write this blog will become precious.

Nov 3 – Foam and Battlefront?

Who doesn't want a cool-looking lightsaber? Too bad they don't exist... but:

How about the next best thing: one made out of foam, which glows?

A company in Qu├ębec has launched a kick starter for a glowing foam-based LARP lightsaber, one that can take a lot of abuse… unlike every other light-up lightsaber currently on the market, which are either fragile or two solid to use in anything but the gentlest manner when mock-fighting foes.

As you can see from the image, the light saber looks pretty impressive, glowing from the inside while still allowing itself to be smacked pretty hard without any loss of function or breakage. It's really impressive to see and all the more so because it's not wired up to anything but instead is powered by 2 'C' batteries in the hilt: everything is custom-made by the Canadian-based Calimacil. Just ignore that wire sticking out of the bottom of the hilt...

As expected, there's a few drawbacks, the first being the cost: at $500.00 for the top-drawer lightsaber version, they're not cheap. However, it has to be said that paying that much gets you a plethora of features, including Bluetooth connectivity, customizable saber color, custom sound effects that react with motion( including hit / humming / crackle-on-hold ) and upgradability to the software as time goes on. You can check out their current Kickstarter here - there's a ton pf backers, so chances are you might just get to see one of these in the wild fairly soon, if you're at a convention in the next couple of years.

I don't belong to any LARP groups, Star Wars costuming clubs or the like, so while the little kid in me is reaching for my wallet, the adult in me realizes that this would only be a novelty item that I'd use a few times a year and as such can't be justified for the price.

I'll just console myself by watching the planetary walk-throughs for Star Wars: Battlefront in this link – if you’re a Star Wars fan in any way, you owe it to yourself to click through the various worlds depicted. The visuals are incredible and highlight what a wonderful job that EA has done in capturing the feel of the films in their game: I'd pay good money just to be able to do a VR walk-around and forget about the combat aspect altogether, the visuals are that immersive.

Who knows what will be possible in five year’s time? Well... THIS, maybe:

Nov 4 – Decisions

I made a few major life decisions today, which was quite liberating.

In part, some of them were coming to honest and final conclusions about what direction I want my life to take in the next 5 to 10 years. Writing will be a large part of that, of course, as will sound financial decisions that will put me firmly on a better path while leaving the past in the past. Despite my efforts and much devotion of my mental resources, I've come to the inevitable conclusion that the only person capable of helping me reach my near-term priority goals is… myself.

It was immensely freeing and I felt my mind settle immediately today.

Enough so that much of the apartment clutter and small tasks that had been hanging around my neck all year long became trivial things once again in my eyes. Spurred by the fact that I had managed to clear out over a dozen cubic feet of space in my room, thanks to my recent eBay sales of my Amiga collection, I spent my entire evening finishing the organization said sales had started.

By the time I was done, my living space was transformed in a subtle but meaningful way.

Everything was in its place, with nothing left in a ‘to do later / whenever’ pile that visually and mentally impinged on my ability to maintain a daily focus on more important tasks in my life. It was truly enlightening to realize how keeping such minor things around me on a daily basis were negatively reminding me that I wasn't achieving my main goals along with all these smaller tasks that remained undone.

Now that I have cleared a workspace in my room, I can retreat to there, to write when noise or circumstance force me to do so. It's a small but important victory in stabilizing my priorities, to have order in a part of my life that I've unconsciously ignored for some time now.

It's one more step towards fulfilling my dreams, physical order manifested from mental decisions made today that focus on my own well-being first before anything, which has been a long time coming.

Nov 5 – Aging Angst?

I think about a lot of things, all of the time. Some of them short-term, others long-term; you have to keep the balance between the two. Much like always looking at your feet were always looking ahead, neither is good to do all the time: you'll either walk off a cliff for trip over your own feet, neither of which is good for you.

One of the things that has always been on the back burner of my mind is getting older. We've all been there, wondering what the next 20 or 40 or even( hopefully )60 years will bring to us. What will we do with our time, and who will be there in our lives at those points?

For some people, the answers are little, and no one:

Until recently, I didn't know if there was anyone out there that I have the possibility of truly connecting with on all the levels of matter. I'm unutterably grateful that I've been able to find someone - my girlfriend - who I am humbled to say is as deep a person in as many ways as I am.

I'm a lucky, lucky guy.

Still, the question remains: what will the future bring, and who will be in it? The last part of that sentence is the most important: who. When it comes to family, friends and coworkers, we get to choose the last two groups but not the first, who are often the most important, though in my life many of my friends are family and those connections are extremely precious to me to maintain.

For most of my life, I wondered about my later years, about being alone( either by choice or circumstance )and how I would deal with that. As I now know that I am quite comfortable with my own company, I have come to see my later years as being less dreadful to contemplate, of a time when I would be beyond productive work of most kinds and simply seeking to keep my mind active while perhaps still looking to contribute to the world in some way.

For the senior show in the video above, their contribution is a simple one: that of kindness to one another, of knowing that another human being wants them in the world - and in their lives - on a regular basis.

That's all you really need to know.

Nov 6 – Discussions

I spent the entire morning waiting around for UPS to pick up my outgoing Amiga games lot, being sent to a fellow in Edmonton, AB who hopefully will have much more time to enjoy it that I have these last three years. I was pleasantly surprised by how economical the cost was to ship to him, as when I listed the auction I had under valued the weight of the ship by some 30 pounds – oops. A lot of empty boxes and diskettes still weight quite a lot and I fretted for a few days, trying to find a method that wouldn't cost much more than my estimate had been on the auction page.

Fortunately, I discovered that UPS had a decent price point that could further be reduced by signing up as a small business - how convenient! After all was said and done, the shipment only cost me $25.00 more than my initial estimate, which I was willing to eat as a lesson to myself to be more thorough in my estimations in the future. That's very important if I'm going to be doing business with my Glowforge through the mail with people throughout the province of BC in 2016.

I also made a few more inquiries today regarding my finances, thanks to my newfound resolution from this week's decisions about my future. I'm tired of being burdened by the past, of being the hold into other people’s lack of interest in my financial goals and I am determined to make my own way in things, wherever that takes me. I am hopeful that the discussions I had today will the fruitful, in that I can move forward towards things like car or home ownership in the future. I've been very careful about protecting my credit rating despite all that is happened to me over the last decade and that fact alone I think will stand me in good stead in my decisions to come.

As for my business, I am hard at work looking at all the aspects of what I need to do in the next three months before my Glowforge arrives. Website design, business cards, local connections for parcel pickup and delivery, plus many other things all have to be hammered out by yours truly. I ready have a business name registered, along with a website address, local business license, business accounts with various companies and of course interested beta-testers.

Getting everything all together in time will be a challenge, one that will likely push my writing down significantly as a priority, but this business opportunity is vital to make my dream of future financial independence a reality. Not being dependent on my day job but instead growing a business that will take me along the path of my own choosing is immensely appealing to me.

What’s a little more hard work, anyway?

Nov 7 – Kindness

My girlfriend's been under the weather all this week.

While it's the typical seasonal cold that she's caught, nevertheless it's taken a lot out of her. As it's the weekend and she's still sick, it would normally be difficult to do much together given her little energy levels and general snuffles.
So instead of going out, I just spent the day with her.

When I was ill this past August, she was kind enough to spend the afternoon making me chicken soup. It was the best thing I have ever tasted and just having her there while I was feeling so low was immensely comforting to me. Over the years, I have tried to be there for my friends whenever they need me, for whatever reason, helping when I could however I could. With my girlfriend, it was subtly different, in that she's most important thing in my life now, so the thought of her spending the day alone and feeling crummy while I did other things was one I couldn't stand.

We had breakfast together and spent a good amount of time today just resting while enjoying some quality downtime together. We did get out for a bit for some fresh air in the afternoon, but her energy levels were soon flagging, so she rested for a little while before watching a few episodes of Babylon 5 for a low-key evening.

I could see the difference that today made in how she was feeling. Having been sick myself, I know that people tend to distance themselves from you, in simple self-preservation to prevent said sickness from happily finding a second host. I am unfortunately prone to catching colds and the like, but today she needed me more than I needed to worry about such things.

Being there for someone else, when they need you, is always the most important thing.

Nov 8 – Government Games

Honesty and openness in government? We could be seeing the start of a new, positive trend.

The new Trudeau government was installed in federal office this week, marking a sea change in how the Canadian government will be run for the next four years… at least, we all hope it will.
Though I didn't vote for the Liberals, I am pleased with what I'm seeing come out of their offices so far. Transparency, accountability and a positive outlook towards creating a Canada for ALL Canadians are things that have been missing from the previous administration, sadly.

A few days ago, Justin Trudeau released an open letter to the Canadian people, which really spoke to me

We made a commitment to invest in growing our economy, strengthening our middle class, and helping those working hard to join it. We committed to fighting climate change and protecting our environment. We made a commitment to provide more direct help to those who need it by giving less to those who do not. We committed to public investment as the best way to spur growth, job creation, and economic prosperity. And we committed to a responsible, transparent fiscal plan for challenging economic times. We expect you to hold the government accountable for delivering these commitments.
Our country faces many real and immediate challenges – from a struggling middle class to the threat of climate change. If we are to overcome these obstacles, Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen. That is why we committed to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in Ottawa. Government and its information must be open by default. Simply put, it is time to shine more light on government to make sure it remains focused on the people it was created to serve – you.
But in order for you to trust your government, you need a government that will trust you. When we make a mistake – as all governments do – it is important that we acknowledge that mistake and learn from it. We know that you do not expect us to be perfect – but you expect us to work tirelessly, and to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.

This is the sort of government that the rest of the world thinks Canada has, though it's been far from the actual truth for far too long. I'm optimistic about what we as a country can accomplish with a progressive and open government in place, taking us far from the exact opposite of the oppressive reality that has just been voted out of office.

Here's hoping.

My evening was spent with my lady and two friends playing Super Dungeon Explore, a chibi-style( cute Japanese characters )boardgame where( you guessed it! )we explored a dungeon. With a clever mix of dice, cards and miniatures, it was a fun three hours learning the game and having fun. My character didn't do so well though, as the dice weren't kind to him:

Guess which one is me?

My pet dragon is there on the right, doing better than my character, at this late stage in the game. When all was said and done, none of the characters died - though some came close - and we defeated all the monsters handily while gaining a fair bit of loot and a sense of satisfaction for a Job Well Done.

A good way to end the weekend, I'd say!

I don't know what it is about the fall, but it seems to be the time of year when things change the most for me. Big decisions, busy times and cloudy weather all combined to make these months fly by, just as they used to when I was in school. It's an odd feeling of familiarity and freshness both, one that I don't think I've noticed for far too many years and is most welcome back in my life again.