Sunday, 4 September 2016

Ceramics, Cosplay and Cabin Fever

The word of the week is fortitude.

Aug 29 – Emulating Nostalgia

Emulators can be fun, but are usually frustrating.

At least they used to be. If you're not sure what I'm referring to, I'm talking about software that lets you play older console +video games on a modern computer, with the physical hardware of the old systems being 'emulated' completely in software.

This is important, in that oftentimes the old hardware has died due to age or other complications( ie. your mom tossed it? )meaning that you can't play those old games that meant so much to you anymore without somehow locating new hardware for an exorbitant price on eBay.

Enter the emulator: Savior of the Casual Nostalgia Gamer, like me.

With a little time on my hands this week, I've been installing and playing emulators on my android tablet, seeing which ones do the best job of emulating the old hardware - specifically my TurboGrafx-16 console and my Amiga computer.

While there's no one single software solution to play both, I did narrow things down to two apps: ColEm for the TG-16 and UAE4all for the Amiga. I spent a few hours this week playing through some of my old favorites on the TurboGrafx, and realized that I'll need to find an inexpensive wireless gamepad to use with the Android tablet, as using the on screen control pad is really hard on the hands after a short time. The Amiga emulator was less successful in testing, but I'm working on it; no rush.

Overall, the experience brought a smile to my face this week: Devils Crush rocks! :-)

Aug 30 – Signifying Nothing

Annoyance and frustration still dog me, in that I'm all gimped out here at home and can't write because of my foot's persistent ache needing regular attention.

It all comes crashing down sometimes, the bad waylaying the good.

I was doing so well a month ago, then BANG out of nowhere this crap happens - again, just like it has before. Eating right, exercising, working hard at the job... apparently not in the right combo, because I injured myself.

It's maddening.

Four years ago, I started writing my novel, and a year ago I was derailed by a random deadly illness and still haven't made significant writing progress since. I'm not working myself into a froth here, but really... I fight through 8 months of panic attacks to get myself back to being steady and WHAM: foot injury out of nowhere. I'm limping around my house, unable to sit or stand more than 30 minutes at a time, out of fear it will make things worse, I can't get the massage therapy that would help me RECOVER because I can't afford it and my FRIGGING WORK INSURANCE WON'T COVER IT BECAUSE OUR PLAN IS 'WEIRD' ... according to the rep I spoke to on the phone - twice.

*deep breath*

None of the above helps. Yet I can't just smile it all away: the physical pain is there, right along with the frustration. So I pick off what I can from my daily To-Do Lists, ensure I eat and sleep right( propping up the foot )and entertain myself... then do it again the next day. At least I'm getting paid for the time off from work, but it feels like I'm cheating, and I HATE that feeling too: I want to work for my pay.

Writing about it in the blog here helps, and keeps me from triggering on all the small, silly daily frustrations: I can keep perspective, but it's hard.

Anyway. On with the week...

Aug 31 – Cosplay Lack

There's a definite lack of 'low-budget' cosplay advice out there. It seems most of the people doing cosplay these days who make more than one costume every six months have a superior set up for doing so to a large degree. By that, I mean that they have dedicated space for costuming, even if it's only a corner of their basement where they can keep their supplies and do their work on a regular basis.

For many other people, myself included, this isn't feasible, not the least because I don't happen to have a basement - or a third bedroom / den to work in, unlike this talented cosplayer( ZonZonZonbi ):

I think there's a healthy market for someone to create a "Costuming For The Average Cosplayer" guide or something to that effect, covering how to create decent costumes using your kitchen table and some basic materials. I've seen quite a few YouTube videos where the costume instructor is showing how to build whatever item they're talking about while surrounded by thousands of dollars of supplies and equipment which most people watching won't have access to - it's like showing someone how to build a toy inside a fully-equipped factory.

In any case, I think I did a dang good job on my USCM costume this year( especially with the significant help of my family during last week of preparation! )but there's no way that I can put together something like an Ironman suit that looks credible enough while painting surfaces by just using my bathroom as a workspace.

Progress is needed, but I'm not movingn aytime soon, so it's a moot point for now.

Sept 1 –  Insulating News

New month - good news!

Today my building's superintendent passed on a bit of good news: new high-efficiency windows are coming coming sometime in 2017 - yay! About time too, as I've been in this place for four years now and quite honestly the road noise is beginning to wear daily on me. The new windows will make all the difference in both terms of cutting down significantly on exterior noise infiltrating apartment as well as eliminating the drafts from the 1960s-era glass slabs that we currently have. I'll still likely have to put up some insulating film over the two front windows this winter, I think, in order to keep things warm.

My place's windows are on the left.

This is indeed significant news, since moving anywhere else in Victoria would be extremely difficult due to the current ultra-low 0.6% vacancy rate as well as being EFFING expensive! There are bidding wars taking place now on apartments all around the city, with the average two bedroom now going for around $1400 for a so-so place without more than the basics and in passable shape. Add in things like granite countertops or stainless steel appliances and you can bet that your monthly rent will be significantly more than most people take home in a paycheque after taxes - not a good thing in terms of the city's livability rating.

We're also into the cooler weather now, with the extreme heat of the last few weeks now giving way to cool winds blowing off the ocean along with rain, which is quite welcome after an extremely dry summer on the Island. I have to say that I find it easier to keep a place warm then try to keep it cool, and it doesn't hurt that we have free heat and hot water in this apartment either.

Sept 2 – Another Week?

A visit to the doctor today and some more frustration.

According to him, I have to spend another week housebound while trying to give my foot time to get back to normal. I'm not spending the whole day with my foot up, but rather alternating 30 minutes with it elevated and then about 15 min. of walking around in order to stretch the tendons ever-so-slightly without damage.

The total lack of massage therapy hasn't helped either. I should explain that my 'weird' health plan, while good for Dental( only every 9 months, which is indeed weird )will not cover the first $600 of massage therapy... making it a moot point to try to use, as each massage session is over $100. So I'm screwed that way for de-tensioning my hamstrings.

But I'm doing what I can; a friend recommended that I use a golf ball to roll under my foot, which I think is a good idea as long as I do it to gently and not often during the day. I can feel that my hamstrings are still extremely tight, moreso on my left leg, which has always been less flexible due to my breaking my femur when I was eight - one factor among many, I guess, in my current health puzzle.

At least I'm done fixing my computer and it's all set up the way I want it; better than before, I daresay. This week has seen me tweak it as I add little thing here and there to improve the functionality even more, but it's basically done, for which I'm grateful as it was a huge time sink last week.

Sept 3 – Getting Out

I think I'm getting a touch of cabin fever.

It hasn't been all that bad, I think, in that I've kept pretty busy these last two weeks, at least mentally. But staying home this much without getting out of a day to a different only serves to remind me that I'm not well and feeds right back into the cabin fever mentality.

So today my amazing girlfriend and I went to see The Secret Life Of Pets, to get me out of the house and pack in a few laughs while we were at it. No spoilers below, either.

The movie was quite funny and over-the-top ridiculous at times, to the point where my lady mentioned that it strained her limits of believability. I responded with the simple credo that it was an animated movie and they were allowed to stretch the bounds of reality a little more than usual for a laugh - which they did!

I really liked the energy of the film, which was a fun-filled romp from start to finish without telegraphing any of the plot points or expected moves that you might think would come up: it was really a surprise almost at every turn. I laughed quite a bit, as did the audience, in all the right points and really had a good time, which I needed.

Afterwards, we went for a drive along Dallas road to take in the sights. It's truly a breathtaking series of scenic views, with the incredible Olympic Mountains rising in the far distance above the clouds near their peaks across the far stretches of the azure-blue ocean. We even went up to the top of Mount Douglas just after the sun had set and I hobbled out to the railing to enjoy the view of the city spread out far below in the fading light: truly spectacular.

We're very lucky to live here.

Sept 4 – Mugging Myself

It was a cold morning, and I was feeling a bit down.

My mood the last few days has been somewhat mercurial, and while it's easy to think "I'll just focus on all the positives" the mood doesn't just wash away with a flood of positives: part of it is that my body chemistry is off due to a lack of exercise and elevated stress hormones, among other things.

Thankfully, my lady invited me out today to a ceramics workshop with some of her poetry friends and I accepted, just to get out of the house... and to spend more time with her too, for that matter - there's been too little of her company these last few weeks.

We went to Fired Up! which is a lovely little corner ceramics studio with room for several dozen people at the various tables inside. Having never been to one of these paint-your-own places before, I wasn't sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised by not only the selection of paintable ceramics, but the relaxed atmosphere: everyone was here to create, and it was as quiet a studio as I've every worked in.

We picked our items and quickly got to work.

I chose something simple: a mug, though one with a unique shape, and while I had to shift around regularly while I sat painting, I was able to concentrate on my work enough that I didn't feel frustrated at the total lack of artistic skill in my hands. I chose to create a Babylon 5 mug to complement the one already in my cupboard, with a B5 and Earth Alliance logos along with a phrase from the show.

After a few hours, I think my initial work turned out pretty well:

You can't really see the letters on the bottom, or the 5 on the other side - yet.

The mug's not finished, as there's still a lot left to do: I have to come back to paint the entire background of the mug black. It'll probably take another few hours again, as I have to do several layers in order to give a thick enough coating that it will look glossy once it is fired, not to mention the painstaking task of filling in around the yellow lettering of the phrase on the bottom.

We left for a delicious relaxed dinner at The Penny Farthing, and then I headed home, as my foot was starting to bother me again, having tightened up from a little too much sitting. So frustrating, and I can't really work on stretching it all that much as it's still tender underneath, even after two weeks of rest.

Though tomorrow is a holiday, I don't feel like I'll be relaxing much: I have to dig into editing my book's draft this week, working around my foot frustration as best I can in order to get some real work done and take my mind off my minor aches and pains.

Nobody wants to hear about a bad week, I know... sorry. I've had a lot on my mind - as always - and this foot thing is really bugging me, one more Distraction on my already-crowded Road Of Life. It's a great metaphor: full of potholes, detours, wacko drivers and all the other things that keep you from doing a little more than the speed limit towards your intended destination... but I persevere, because it looks really good up ahead.