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!