Sunday, 21 February 2016

Mercs, Mechs and Moola

The word of the week is effusive.

Feb 15 – Taxes?

Some good news!

After plugging all of my tax information into online, then triple checking the numbers, this year looks to be the best one yet for me.

I have to admit, I was feeling quite trepidations before getting my day job's T4 slip today, as I wasn't sure how much tax had been taken off. Without today's T4 numbers, I was looking at getting about $80 back, which wasn't going to do much to help my financial situation for 2016.

It should be noted that I've been doing my own taxes online using TurboTax for almost 10 years now and it's been incredibly useful tool, especially as it cost me less than $20 to file, which is significantly less than any other place will charge.

Note: I found out after filing my taxes this week that you can file your basic Canadian tax return for free at, which is even more impressive!

But, back to my 2016 taxes: they look good!

While my return's not going to send me on a vacation, it will help alleviate some of the financial crunch I've been feeling and definitely help to knock down my anxiety levels - it's one less major thing to worry about.

Having done taxes at MMart for years, I'm fully conversant with all the ways that people with basic tax situations can reduce their tax burden and I've done all those, so seeing the proof in the pudding with today's numbers was rather nice.

Feb 16 – Critique Night!

Of all the nights I thought I'd be feeling anxious this week about, it was this one... but I didn't, which was good.

We met upstairs in the SkyLounge, which I think is an excellent place for us: there's lots of room and nobody will bother us for the few hours that where there. I'm looking forward to meeting up there in the summer, not only for the warmth but for the fact that we'll be surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows through which we can enjoy the late summer evenings when the sun's still up in the sky.

The feedback I received on my latest two scenes was excellent and I picked up more than a few tips about where I should go in the next draft. 

One other thing I'm nervous about is running out of material. After tonight, I only have one more chapter's worth of material left for Book 2 and that's it. I won't have anything more to critique until I start writing again sometime this summer; my time up until then will be focused on editing my first book and not creating new material until the Fourth Draft is ready to send out, probably by June.

I don't feel pressured though; my critique group is amazing and they know( just as I do )that writing isn't a production line, but rather situational: it happens when it happens, and as long as you're working on it in one form or another, that's all it matters.

Feb 17 – Merc With A Mouth

I saw Deadpool tonight, and loved it!

It's not often that a movie exceeds my expectations, and Deadpool did that on several levels. It was well-written, self-aware, funny and just plain fun to watch. Sure, there were gory bits and excessive violence( it's DEADPOOL, after all )but it was a pure pleasure to see how well Ryan Reynolds brought the character to life - he was the producer on the film as well and it shows in the care that was taken with almost every aspect of the picture.

Being an R-Rated comic-book film doesn't seem to have hurt its opening weekend whatsoever: it annihilated Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening by a comfortable margin and that alone is an incredible achievement.

The movie itself was a blast. Being somewhat of a smartass myself, I can really relate to Wade Wilson / Deadpool in the movie, making snappy comments at just the wrong moments... and the best part is that he can't die, so he can mouth off all he likes - and he's funny! It shows that Deadpool, as a character, is smart, observant and well aware of the fourth wall, speaking directly to the audience numerous times in the film( which he gets from the comic, that's one of his signature things he does ). Having a character who is aware he's a fictional character is extraordinarily freeing for a writer, and Deadpool makes the most of this freedom to send up all sorts of things in the film, which I won't spoil for you - go see it!

Other things about the film: the CGI was excellent, with nothing that pulled me out of the film while watching it( no over-the-top look-at-me sequences )and the casting was spot-on. I especially liked the main villain( 'Francis' as Deadpool calls him )as he and Deadpool have a most-hated relationship, which is quite believable. The other characters were believably done, especially Wade Wilson's bar-buddy, who is notable for his lack of enthusiasm about being Deadpool's friend. And the humour in film is spot-on funny all the way through: no jokes fell flat and the tone perfectly suited the material source of the comic - bravo!

One also can't help but compare Deadlpool to another R-Rated comic-book film from previous years: Blade and its sequels, all of which I happen to like. Yet they're not on the same level as Deadpool( not counting the breaking of the 4th Wall, which is a key element of Deadpool )because Blade takes itself area seriously - totally unlike Deadpool, which is out to give the viewer the most enjoyable movie possible, based on the character.

It's not distinction, but an important one: when a movie is made by people who are not only thoroughly familiar with the material but want it to succeed based on that material and not studio notes, something impressive becomes possible

I can't wait for Deadpool 2!

Feb 18 – Archer P.I.

I think February is going to be renamed 'Nostalgia Month' in my calendar...

In this blog, I've written before how I love Magnum P.I. the TV show - there's just something about the concept of a semi-deadbeat detective living out their mid-40's dream in Hawaii while playing dangerous games that really appeals to me and always has.

Apparently it's also appealed to quite a few other people over the years and continues to do so, as evidenced by the intro for the upcoming 7th season of Archer:

It's a shot-by-shot animated rendering of the Magnum P.I. intro with the characters from Archer replacing the actors from the original show, and it's glorious! It brought a smile to my face and maybe want to watch the rest of Archer as soon as possible - which was probably the idea behind it in the first place.

Tellingly, I mentioned the Archer trailer to a friend at work this week and the next day he told me that he'd been watching the show at home while his wife did other things... but then he noticed that she was paying more and more attention to the show until she finally burst out laughing and joined him to watch on the couch.

Need I say more?

Feb 19 – Jumbo Birthday!

It was my girlfriend's birthday today and I took her out for dinner.

Being the guy that I am, I didn't want to go somewhere we've been before. I wanted to surprise her and at the same time give her the perfect dinner experience for her birthday.

No small task, that.

My choice? Little Jumbo, a below-the-radar establishment that is one of Victoria's best-kept open secrets. It's tucked away down a hallway near the waterfront downtown, with only a small sign with a purple neon elephant on it to mark that it's there for the average passersby.

Our reservations guaranteed us a table, and when we arrived it was quite busy though no surprise on a Friday night. I should mention that the bar is one of the best-stocked in all of Canada, with some items that apparently you can't find even in the best bars in the USA... not being a knowledgeable drinker, it doesn't do me any good.

We decided on a 3-course dinner: she had chili shrimp to start and I had grilled romaine hearts. The dishes were quick to arrive and they were incredible: subtle flavors layered with bolder ones in perfectly cooked food and just the right portion size. Delicious!

The main courses were duck for her and gnocchi for me. Her dish was amazing: the duck was tender, moist and not gamey at all, but possessed of a rich flavor throughout. My gnocchi were soft pillows of perfection, layered with many different tastes on the dish - we couldn't stop exclaiming over every bite!

Dessert was less impressive but delicious all the same: she had banana caramel layered in biscuits and I had a chocolate peanut butter sundae. Yum!

According to my girlfriend, this was the best birthday dinner she can ever recall having- big points for me today! And the best part?

We totally lost track of time while we were there. Win!

Feb 20 – Whattaday!

This was the busiest day I've had in quite some time!

My lady and I were up early and out the door for breakfast at Adrienne's before visiting my mother for a short while, some of which was my usual tech support and helping with difficult minor tasks around her place that neither she nor my dad can easily take care of.

Then it was back to my place for a few hours to take care of some necessary chores around the apartment, including laundry. On my way to the laundry room, I spotted a commotion at the elevator: apparently several people were trapped inside when the door failed to open. As it was going to be some time until either the fire department or the elevator repairman arrives, I stepped in to assist.

Having a quick look at the door, I saw that the mechanism was relatively simple, basically a tensioned chain keeping the locking bar in place, like so:

I asked the super for a wrench and proceeded to release the chain carefully, ensuring that I kept my hands clear of any sudden tension that might result. Fortunately, the mechanism responded exactly as I predicted after having checked in earlier and once the chain was gone, the door could be manually retracted.

The ladies inside were most relieved, as the elevator had been getting quite hot in the short time it had been stuck on the main floor. The superintendent was quite effusive in his praise of my ability to open elevators and several people asked me what mechanical degree or experience I had that have enabled me to open the door.

I just replied "I used to watch a lot of Mythbusters" and went on my way.

But today wasn't done yet! At 3pm I had another Trial By Stone podcast session about The Dark Crystal, which ran overlong again and was a lot more relaxed, even chatty, than the previous sessions had been. I should have one more podcast to go in a few weeks and I have to say I've been enjoying myself immensely.

In the evening, my lady and I went over to a friend's to play a game of Eclipse, which said friends were eagar to try out after watching this excellent video review:

Surprisingly, we managed to get through most of the game in only a few hours, which was fantastic! Everyone really enjoyed themselves and our friends can't wait to play again, which is music to my ears: I love Eclipse and I hope that's it will become something we game with regularly month-to-month.

Feb 21 – Breathe…

Today was mainly about relaxing.

Around noon, my girlfriend and I attended a housewarming party, at the same place we'd been yesterday. A few months ago, our friends had decided the condo they were renting was perfect for their needs and as it had just been put on the market, they made an offer that was accepted!

Hence the housewarming party today. It was the first social situation with many people that I've been out at in some time and it went splendidly - not a hint of anxiety, helped perhaps by the fact that I knew most of the dozen people there.

It was a good time, and I ended up spending 3 hours there, chatting with people about various things. I think it helped that good number of the folks there were g33ky and all were smart folks, so we got along really well. While we were talking about area codes, one person was impressed with how I managed to place a phone number exactly to the city it was from in Canada and complimented me on "How it was amazing at how many things I knew" - which was great to hear, as I can use a good ego boost of late!

I played some MWO in the evening, on and off, as I wrote my blog. It's funny how out of all the games I own and still haven't finished, that I pick the one to play that has the potential to annoy me the most sometimes. Winning is great, don't get me wrong, but when you lose in MWO it's usually by quite a lot, as your team runs around like headless chickens and some idiot has to comment on how If We'd All Done This Then We'd Have Won Instead... which I got a few of tonight directed at me when I was the last guy standing and I couldn't maneuver fast enough in my Big Stompy Mech to nail the last enemy standing with a few more shots for the win.

Stick it, all you Know It Alls: I play for fun, and it's just a game.

For all that, I do well enough to keep coming back; I love the Battletech universe and the flexibility fun I have tinkering with the mech loadouts to see what best suits my playstyle, as I've said before. I'm not one of the hardcore players( and never will be )who have spent hundreds on the game, have dozens of mechs and log a few hours every day playing at a minimum. I have better things to do with my time; MWO is my entertainment only and as such I realize that I'm in it purely for the fun - anyone who's taking it more seriously than that isn't my problem.

It was a tiring week, working five days while trying to keep myself balanced mentally and physically. I think I succeeded, as I didn't have an anxiety attack or even a close call, so I think the St John's Wort dosages I'm taking are the right ones at the right times each day. I do need to work on spending more time daily on my new exercise bike as well as writing time; that sort of balance will be crucial in the next few months as I juggle a whole bunch of things at once.