A Long Month Tuesday, Sep 25 2007 

In which our intrepid hero sets the record straight.

A couple of days ago, I realised that I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a month. This is the longest break I’ve ever taken, but it’s been a very busy month. In no particular order:

  • The transformer for our laptop overheated and burnt out. Thankfully, we managed to pick up an after-market power supply yesterday. It works like a charm and runs much cooler than the old one.As a result, however, I now have about 300 emails, 2000 blog articles and a dozen or so Facebook messages left unread. If I haven’t replied to your email, commented on your blog, or answered your Facebook messages, please bear with me—I’ll get to them shortly.
  • Speaking of Facebook, it constantly amazes me just how much time the damn thing can waste. Bruce Sterling (from memory) recently stated that between browsing and blogging, he no longer has much time to write novels, and I can see his point.I’ve often thought in recent months that if people actually told each other in real life how much they loved one another, bought real flowers and drinks—rather than exchanging generic bits of data on their Facebook profiles—then they might generally be happier and get laid once in a while. Sex and the City‘s and Desperate Housewives‘ ratings might plummet to the point that I no longer have to risk accidentally channel-surfing onto them, and all would be good with the world.Technology might be able to enhance interpersonal relationships, but it can’t satisfactorily replace them. The world is much poorer for the erroneous perception that it can.

    Now, I sound like Ted Kaczynski, so I’ll move hastily onto my next point…

  • I also picked up a USB numeric keypad. Most people buy these to do data entry, but it should significantly aid me with ALT-characters.Say I wanted to type a letter “u” with an umlaut. It’s easy in HTML—the character code is ü—but to do it in (say) Microsoft Word, I used to have to go:
    1. Fn+F11
    2. Alt+MKIK
    3. Fn+F11

    Now, it’s just a simple matter of five keypresses, like I would have with a desktop PC with a full keyboard. Still, I pine for the day when I can buy a diacritic keypad, with keys you could hold down like Shift or Ctrl or Alt. It would have to be huge to accommodate all those weirdarse Vietnamese diacritics, but it’d make my life so much easier.

  • Mim K/W’s friends, Amber and Mitch, have flown to Melbourne to deal with a family crisis, and somehow, we ended up birdsitting their budgie, Radar.He was the most sedate little thing when he came here; he’d just sit on his perch and stare, nary a peep to be heard from him. We’ve put him near the window, bought him some good birdseed and a seed bell, and looped a CD of Australian songbirds to keep him company—and now you can’t shut him up. Especially when he hears our windchime.I’m not great with birds, but I have to admit, I kinda like the little guy.
  • I went a little crazy going miniatures shopping, and I now have about 60 samurai and 40 more Call of Cthulhu minatures to paint. I also have a metric crapload of scenery-making materials. I blame my friend Leo, who’s been mining me for painting and modelling techniques over the last couple of months.
  • I also went out and bought Monte Cook’s World of Darkness—because I just had to—and issue #1 of Paizo’s new magazine, Pathfinder.I think Erik Mona and the guys at Paizo did a phenomenal job when they took over Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and Pathfinder somehow managed to exceed my expectations. I’m still only partway through, but what little I’ve seen is already enough to get me to subscribe.
  • After a casual stroll into a second-hand bookshop in the Blue Mountains, I am now the proud owner of the third edition of Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. That’s the twelve-volume edition, by the way, published 1906-1915. And it’s never been read; its spines are as yet uncracked.You may now worship at my feet, pitiful mortals. MUHAHAHAHAHA!I also snagged the collected works of Lafcadio Hearn and Mencius. You can bet I’ll be back at that bookshop soon.

    Earlier in the week, I finally tracked down Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Scott McCloud‘s Making Comics, although I didn’t buy the latter—it was in too shopworn a condition. All in all, though, it’s been an outstanding week for book-hunting.

  • Mim K/W bought Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword for my birthday. Now I just have to put together a PC that’ll run the thing…Speaking of my birthday, couple of weekends ago (delayed due to Fathers’ Day and APEC), I had my annual birthday drinks at The Porterhouse. Thanks to everyone who showed up—I had an awesome time!
  • Mim K/W has had a nasty cough for the past seven weeks, and between her workaholism and her bizarre insistance that she couldn’t go to a doctor until her phlegm turned green, it was only yesterday that we managed to drag her to Dr Tim. Despite the speculation of the triage nurse at the hospital the night before, it turns out that she doesn’t have pneumonia—yet. I had to pull a fast one on Dr Tim to convince Mim that she needed a couple of days off.It also seems that I have tonsillitis again—and Dr Tim says that if it happens once more, I’m finally going to have to have the suckers removed. Mim informs me that this means lots of jelly (that’s jello in American) and ice cream, but that I can’t request vodka in my jelly. Crap.(Incidentally, I find it strange that a triage nurse can somehow examine inpatients through half an inch of safety glass. If there’s no physical contact, then you’re not a triage nurse—you’re a receptionist.)
  • When I was a kid, my favourite movie was Journey to the Center of the Earth. Since then, the subterranean world has fascinated me. From old issues of Australian Geographic to AD&D 1st-ed’s GDQ series and Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide, to Goodman Games’ Creatures of the Endless Dark, Lovecraft‘s ghouls and David Conyers’ Secrets of Kenya, I’ve been almost obsessed with the realms below.But I’d never actually been in a cave.Last weekend, Mim K/W and I stayed at a “couples’ escape” near Rydal.

    On our way back to Sydney, we stopped by the spectacular Jenolan Caves. Sadly, by the time we got there, we could only tour the one cave—the evocatively named Temple of Baal—but we’re planning to return and explore all that we can. Friggin’ amazing stuff.

  • After several months living on savings and about a month on sickness benefits, it looks like I’ll re-enter the workforce tomorrow. Everyone at Mim K/W’s work has taken leave at the same time, and it looks like I’m about the only one she has confidence in to step up and help her hold the fort whilst her workmates are spread about the globe. I’m not sure if I can handle full-time work again, but I’m not the kind of person who says “no” easily.All those people who’ve been nagging me to get a job can stop now. Please. I have an anxiety disorder and you’re just freaking me out.Of course, being that we’ll be the only ones in the office, we can’t head to Canberra for the Labour Day long weekend, as we’d planned—many of Mim’s customers live in states where this coming weekend doesn’t include the Monday. I’d have loved to show her around my hometown, but it’ll have to wait.

    On the upside, though, it does mean that we can head to Fairfield Oktoberfest instead. Weissbier and butterscotch schnapps will flow like the autumn rains…

  • Last Friday night, Mim K/W and I went to La Premiere at Fox Studios to see Stardust. Do yourself a massive favour—go watch it. Although I think De Niro could’ve been a little bit better—I don’t think he’s quite settled into comedy yet—the film wonderfully captures Neil Gaiman‘s brilliant style. I simply loved every moment.In the leadup to Stardust, I did something I don’t normally do: I made time to watch the latest episode of the ABC’s At the Movies. Their review of Superbad was, in a word, lamentable. Not the review itself—they’re usually quite thorough, their failure to even mention Gaiman in the Stardust review notwithstanding—but the attitudes that the Superbad review betrayed.The world is changing, and they’re frightened out of their wits. Their only defence is to perch precariously on the ivory tower of film review and hurl meagre thunderbolts at the culture that frightens them so much. I suspect that many movie reviewers share the same motives. This makes me sad.
  • Speaking of pretense, Mim K/W and I stopped in at a Cypriot taverna in Katoomba for dinner on Sunday. A geriatric foursome sat at the table next to us, boasting that the food was better in Cyprus (and for the record, the taverna served the best loukanika I’ve ever had) and generally crapping on about opera.One woman, whilst drinking a VB—the “workers’ beer” in Australia—bragged that she saw Wagner in Prague because she could. The man next to her exclaimed that Wagner has brilliant moments, but truly dreary hours. Which would have been witty, had it not been the most overused cliché in the field of Wagner critique.I very nearly celebrated our meal—by smashing our plates over their heads.
  • To round out an insanely intense month, Mim K/W and I went to IKEA yesterday (yes, when she should’ve been in bed) and made some pretty cool purchases.I’ve been working on assembling the perfect environment in which to paint and build the aforementioned miniatures and terrain. I have:
    • a VIKA GRUVAN tabletop (with VIKA ARTUR legs to come later this week);
    • a couple of silver ANDY drawers in which I can store things without worrying about fumes;
    • two packs of PRUTA food containers to store things like flock, modelling clay, granite spackle and assorted bits and pieces; and
    • two INREDA collectors’ boxes for storing and displaying finished miniatures.

    All I have to get now is a table-mounted magnifying fluorescent lamp and—if I can find one—an old-style ergonomic drafting kneel chair. And, of course, the legs for my table.

    Whilst I was at IKEA, I also picked up candles, a stuffed toy polar bear, beaver and trio of mice, a bale of sticks and a kilo pack of Swedish meatballs.

    If the world ever goes all Snow Crash, then I want to be a citizen of IKEA.

And that should be just about the highlights of the last month. Mim K/W needs the PC now to work from home (again, she should be resting), but I’ll try not to be so lax in my future blogging.


Flicks, Calendars & Jackhammers Friday, Sep 23 2005 

In which our intrepid hero feels like his head has been pounded in.

MyYahoo! was down again this morning, so I was forced to reach back into my primordial memory to recall which news sites I used to read in the dark days before my life was filled with nummy RSSified goodness. And, thus, I stumbled onto ENWorld.

Two notable highlights are that the Women of the Camarilla Calendar 2006 is now on sale, and that the Sci-Fi Channel are premiering the sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons movie.

Firstly, the calendar. The cover copy reads: "For years, White Wolf’s Camarilla Fan Club has broken the myth of all-male gaming with a diverse population of live-action players, including many women."

Apparently, this calendar is being marketed as a statement of equality—"See? We have chicks!"

Yeah, right. Car mechanics have been doing this for decades: posting skin calendars up on the walls of their workshops to prove what devoted feminists they are. Why doesn’t White Wolf just cut the crap and admit that they’re using sex to sell a product line. And give us neanderthals some real cheesecake to holler and drool over.

Wizards of the Coast has a brief press release on the premiere of D&D II—straight to cable. Which I don’t have, damn shame that that is. I might even take up the opportunity to watch this if it comes my way; there’s a sick, voyeuristic part of me that wonders if they could do a worse job on the sequel.

And that’s about all I can write at the moment. The building is—quite literally—being demolished around me, and there’s a jackhammer going on the next floor up, directly above my head. I just can’t concentrate. I can see that I’m not going to get much work done today.