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December 29, 2002

Make Regular Backups

On Thursday, Vickie and I went into Hornsby to see The Lord of the Rings and do some post-Christmas shopping. The Lord of the Rings was great, by the way. This is from the perspective of someone who's not read any of the novels (except The Hobbit). The movie was most enjoyable, all the way through its three hours in length. I know there are several nits that can be picked - Dad owns the BBC radio play that was made about twenty or so years ago, and from that I know there are some things that simply didn't turn up in the movie - but it was still a worthwhile and well-executed production. Kudos to all involved, and boy am I hanging out for the next two!

Anyway, before going to see said movie, we did a little shopping in the Electronics Boutique. We wound up spending about $40 on two games: Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance and Age of Empires. Let me just say X-Wing Alliance is heaps of fun, especially on my 1.2 GHz Athlon. Vickie is a fan of AOE from a while ago, so I bought her a DVD-case copy. I doubt she'll get around to it for a while - the copy of Black & White I borrowed from Cameron so Vickie can train a Tiger has sat unplayed on her desk for weeks, and now that Vickie has quit smoking, she's found a replacement addiction - Bejewelled.

Back to the point - One thing I noticed about XWA is its unfortunate tendency, even on my Athlon (with 256MB PC2100 RAM and a GeForce 3 card with 64MB onboard RAM), to drop frames like crazy at times (usually when looking at a large base for the first time). Admittedly, I was running it on 1280x1024 resolution, but when I dropped to lower resolutions the problem didn't go away.

I remembered reading about an OS optimiser for games, GameOS, on the Penny Arcade website, so last night I tracked it down and downloaded a beta to try it out. It generated errors whenever I tried it, even after restarting, so, as I had simply copied the files to the hard drive from the zip package it came in, I deleted them and thought nothing more of it until trying to organise a multiplayer session of XWA with Cameron. I'd just double-clicked on the game's desktop icon when the PC restarted itself. It seemed to reboot fine, though, but when Windows 2000's shell booted, the only items that appeared were the mouse pointer and the wallpaper. No desktop icons, no taskbar (even when I hit the Windows button on my keyboard) and, thus, seemingly no way to access my computer. Hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL brought up the Windows Security dialogue box, as it should, but I couldn't do more form there bar restarting again and again and again (to no avail).

In the end, after trying several things until about ten PM, I decided the only thing I could do was reformat my HDD and reinstall everything. Thankfully, my network shares were still working, so I was able to recover all my downloads and documents. Everything else, though - Internet bookmarks, ICQ contact lists and save-games - was gone.

My PC is now up and running again, after a lengthy re-install and rebuild last night and this morning. A few system problems from argumentative software on my previous install don't exist any more, thankfully. I haven't tried playing any games again yet; we have some cleaning up to do at home and I need to write some more.

Unfortunately, the rebuild has caused some problems on the gaming front; namely, the loss of all my save-games. This is one of the main reasons why I usually don't complete a game - I make progress, then something elsewhere on my system futzes up (or I futz it up), or I upgrade the system, and I need to rebuild, losing all the saves in the process.

This royal pain would have been avoided if I'd performed the regular backup to CD-R a few days ago as I should have done. It's been over a month since by last backup - which, now, seems to have been screwed anyway, so in effect, I've lost two months worth of backing up. Lesson number Two - always verify your backups after they've been made. This means I'll have to start several games again from scratch: XWA (not so bad, as I'd only just joined the Rebellion), Homeworld (another game I've never finished) and Black & White (on which I've only ever got as far as Land Two - and believe me, despite the fact that the game is brilliant, Villagers moaning "Must build homes!" gets boring VERY quickly, not to mention spanking my monke - er, ape, and starting again seems like a positive CHORE).

Ladies and gentlemen, make regular backups, especially if you're a gamer.

December 28, 2002

2002 Christmas Report

Good afternoon! Recovered from all the cheer and the over-eating from Christmas Day yet? We're working on that ourselves.

Now, hands up who's seen The Two Towers already. Come on, you can be honest; the only thing that hasn't stopped us splurging on a pair of tickets ourselves is the fact that we're a little skint after splurging on Christmas prezzies.

Christmas Day actually turned out to be more positive than we'd otherwise thought it would be. We popped around Mum and Dad's for the planned couple of hours before we went over to Dan and Lesley's. We were expecting things to get a little tense between Mum, Dad, Vickie and myself (as they usually do), and there was a tense conversation about the future and grandchildren, but it felt like we'd all finally said some things that needed saying and that it's okay to get along now. After that, things went great, and after having Christmas lunch at Dan and Lesley's, we went back to Mum and Dad's again for a few hours!

Lunch at Dan and Lesley's was good, too. Lesley has a firm open-door policy on Christmas Day, but Vickie and I were the only two to turn up. Most of Lesley's family is overseas, and all of Dan's is as well, so they were halfway expecting it. It was a nice relaxing time, though; I wound up reading their eldest daughter, Emily, a bedtime story from one of her story books. We had the Christmas Day cricket on, and Lesley regaled us with her anecdotes of meeting some UK and Australian cricketers (characters like Dennis Lillee, David Gower, AB and Geoffrey Boycott). She doesn't have a high opinion of some of the previous Australian greats, though, but considering some of her experiences and anecdotes, I can't blame her.

With nothing planned for today, we decided to invite Nick over for a few hours. He brought his PS2 with him, and showed me some of his rally games (for those of you who don't know him, Nick thinks petroleum was created for one purpose and one purpose only: rally). There was an unfortunate incident where Nick, who put his PS2 up vertically, on our rug in front of the TV, moved the rug with his foot; the PS2 came crashing down while Colin McRae Rally 3 was in it. The jolt left a very nasty scuff mark on the surface of the game disk, enough that the PS2 refused to recognise it when he put it back in. As he'd only just received it as a Christmas pressie, he was quite disappointed indeed. Thankfully, we had a CD repair kit on hand; Nick used it successfully on the disk. I subsequently used it on Vickie's Queen Greatest Hits and Fleetwood Mac: The Dance CDs; The Dance seems to be playing fine now, but the Queen Greatest Hits didn't want to know. I think we'll just have to replace that one.

We had a nice chook-and-chips lunch, and Nick introduced Vickie to The Sims. She was still getting used to the interface by the time Nick had to leave (he's picking Jacinta up so they can spend some time together before she heads over to New Zealand for a month), but she thinks she'd play it. I might buy it for her (and maybe for me as well, as the Deluxe Edition is around $40 a copy) sometime. In the meantime, I've sort of nagged Vickie into some more Neverwinter this evening.

Tomorrow's going to be a big housework day for me; between the sun and rain lately, the lawn has exploded and needs a good mowing. Also, Madam Lash needs some TLC with Cameron's Christmas present to us: an Armour All Car Care Kit.

December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas 2002!

Hello everyone! We hope you're enjoying your Christmas Morning and that you'll have a very enjoyable Christmas Day!

Rather than ramble on any further, I'd just like to re-post some very wise words that Vickie sent to the group on our behalf:

It's been a great year for us and the increased interest in the Newsgroup has been an added bonus. It's truly become a gathering of friends both near and far.

It's been a pleasure hosting parties and games, where so many of our friends can be together in the one place. We hope that you've all enjoyed yourselves and will continue to consider Fraser Road, a place where you are always welcome.

Here's looking forward to a great 2003!


Rob & Vickie!

December 23, 2002

A Pressie from Aston Martin and Q

Evening one and all! Two sleeps to Christmas! Are you counting down the days too? We've got almost all our Christmas stuff - cards, pressies and decorations - done; I think we just have one more pressie to buy tomorrow and we'll be all done! (Thank God!)

Die Another Day was fun. The attempted use of camera-rushes and Woo-esque slow-mo largely detracted from the film, and the tech sometimes stretched the suspension of disbelief, but Brosnan was in form, Berry was having a ball and John Cleese was perfect as the new Q. Oh, and the final few minutes showed us something we thought we'd never see... What really surprised me though, was that Madonna's cameo performance was better than her theme song.

Nothing much to report this evening. Response to the Spirit of Christmas v-party on Christmas Eve has been low, but I was expecting that - after all, I only posted the notice yesterday, and I don't think there are many on the list who actually own Neverwinter Nights (Philistines). Still, I'll be fiddling with the network tonight, as an experiment and a learning experience. Please, though, I'd still love to read your e-mail/vote if you plan to drop in. Once again, the Spirit of Christmas hakpak can be found here. The primary pak is a little over 12 megabytes in size, and the supplementary one is closer to 1.2 megabytes. I'd love to see you there!

Oh yeah, by the way: For all you cats out there waiting for the PC version of Halo, GameSpot have an update from Gearbox, who are working on the port.

December 22, 2002

You'd Better Watch Out...

G'morning, everybody! Three sleeps to Christmas! Looking forward to it?

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was good. If you've read the novel, there's very little to surprise you - and on the other hand, I don't think there's anything you can get miffed at the movie-makers for changing. Richard Harris was great, as usual, and although he has a great body of work behind him, his warm and humourous portrayal of Albus Dumbledore will see his memory remain in the minds of the current generation of youngsters for years to come.

It's interesting to see the three stars of the film grow up as they do in the stories, although you start wondering (a) whether Daniel, Rupert and Emma will "out-grow" the shooting schedule, and (b) whether it's good for them to remain on what potentially is a seven-film (if J. K. Rowling keeps to her schedule of seven Potter books) series for their entire adolescence. When will they have time to be teenagers?

As we didn't get out of the house until half past six last night, I didn't wind up picking up any PC case fans. Maybe today, although I'm stretching the budget as is (I have the feeling I didn't carry a one somewhere when I was figuring out how much to withdraw from my savings account), and we still have Die Another Day today.

The Neverwinter Nights web site has posted a new module, with hakpaks, called "Spirit of Christmas". It's a single-area module; a forest grove filled with snow and bauble-festooned Christmas trees. There are also presents (with items inside them!) and a piano (which unfortunately doesn't play). Do any of you guys own NWN? I'm thinking of hosting Spirit of Christmas on my system (well, probably Vickie's system) on Christmas Eve, (say, 7:30 PM Australian Eastern Daylight Time Christmas Eve until 1 AM Australian Eastern Daylight Time Christmas Day, so Vickie cam come in after she gets home from work) and having a virtual open-house for friends. I know it's short notice, but I'll stick a poll up to see who'd be interested. If you vote in, or send me an e-mail saying you'll be there, I'll send you the IP address and module password. You'll need to download and install the hakpaks yourselves (don't worry, it's a painless, harmless process; everything's stored in self-extracting executables). If you're going to come in-character, chuck me an e-mail letting me know your character's name (as the host, I'd prefer to know who you are just in case).

December 21, 2002

Requiescat in Pace, Alexander Farquhar

Dad called me at seven AM. My Grandad - his Dad - died a few hours earlier. Grandad had been admitted to hospital with chest pains, and while Heather (my aunt and Dad's sister) went home to get some things for him, he suffered a massive heart attack.

It's sad news, and it probably would've affected me more if I were still living in the UK. The last time I actually saw Grandad was in 1995, when Mum, Dad, Trish and I went back for a Christmas, "high school's over" holiday. I've spoken to him on the phone occasionally, but over the past several years, he became a little crotchety and hypochondriac, pestering Grandma and Heather and being generally trying.

Still, I have fond memories of Grandad. I'll miss him - and I hope Dad's coping okay.

December 20, 2002

Sayonara, Soup Plus

Evening Ye Merry Ladles and Mentalmen! Don't you love how we Aussies adopt the European Christmas iconography (snow, etc.) during the hottest part of the year? I find it doubly ironic as Bethlehem, the pace where it's all reputed to have started some two thousand years ago, is bloody hot this time of year as well! We have had some hot weather lately; thankfully, it's not been so warm that we haven't had some nice cool evenings - like this one! Vickie's home with me this evening - she's not feeling too crash-hot at the moment, so she's taken a sick-evening.

Have any of you cats and kitties taken a gander at the IMAGinewS web site lately? 95 posts! Ninety-bloody-five posts! That's over double our previous record (September this year). It's very heartening to see this group being used for the sort of general chat that I was hoping it would. As this post will bring the total to 96, I think we'll easily crack 100 by New Year. What do you reckon?

The Photos section is finally getting some use (I'd quite forgotten it was there); Vickie posted a photo of me at work a couple of days ago (I'll have to take a camera to her place one night and get even), and I decided the photos section would be an even more appropriate place for Peg's HeroMachine portrait of Trent. The section is open for members, and there's 30 megabytes of photo space for people to upload pictures of themselves, or themselves with other members of the group.

I'm quite proud to say that I think we're succeeding in driving Nick (Boots) insane with our own takes on his Dude, Where's My Car?-inspired Achtung! Wo Ist Mein Panzerkampfer? con module. So far, though, I've only seen ideas from Trent and Gav. I particularly like the following:

  • Roadies, Where's my Band? (Trent) - Five roadies, after an indeterminate time drinking & smoking, find themselves in the middle of the Nevada desert. They've lost their gear, trucks & band. But worse still there's not a butt crack showing between them. What do they do? Search out the missing butt cracks, or find their band in the hope that this is some sort of practical joke?
  • Dude, Where's Babylon 4? (Gav)
  • Dude? My Lightsaber is Where? (Gav), starring Yoda

And Vickie just came up with Puss, Where's My Boots?, which is doubly funny considering the guy who started this all off! So what about the rest of yez? Have any of you actually seen Dude, Where's My Car? Oh, oh, here's an evil one for you film-buffs and alternate cinema appreciaters: Dude, Where's My Lebowski? Get it? Big Lebowski? Double-meaning in the "Dude" bit? Get it? No? (Sigh...)

Unfortunately, our plans to get down to Soup Plus for one last dinner-and-show before thirty years of Sydney jazz history came to a close got the kibosh. The original booking for Thursday, December the 5th was derailed by the bushfires encircling Sydney at the time; Us, Gav and Mandi were all set to go, but Gav quite wisely decided that the bushfires near Berowra were getting too potentially close to home to not be there in case an evacuation was necessary, and we decided to stay home and make ourselves and our place available as an evacuee refuge. Vickie and I planned to re-book for next Thursday, but it conflicted with Gav's schedule (MacquarieCon rego), and by the time I finally called to book, it was already booked out. So, Vickie and I met in the city at twelve thirty on that Thursday to have lunch there. We still got a show, though - John Hawksworth was playing piano for the lunchtime crowd.

I made sure to thank the proprietor, Mr. Milan Votrubec, for keeping such a wonderful joint open for so long, and let him know I was sorry to see it go. He told me that he still had hopes that the Soup could open again; possibly, a future landlord might be a little less greedy. But, sadly, Soup Plus is now Closed, perhaps for the time being, perhaps forever. With it has ended an era in Sydney's muse-o scene.

Anyway, enough of the blues. Any of you guys frequent the Apple QuickTime Movie Trailers web site? Perchance, have you seen the new trailers for Bad Boys II and, joy of joys, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? Look good, don't they? You know, I've never actually seen Bad Boys at all; I think I ought to track it down at the local video store sometime. But egad, T3... He's Back Again! Don't we all just love Arnold as the big, implacable, emotionless cyborg, especially when he's fighting on the side of the good guys? And do you know the guy is 55? Fifty-five years old, and he's still in great shape and looking as unstoppable as ever!

What I'm really interested in is how they explain the big shift in continuity. According to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Skynet started the nuclear war that decimated the human race in 1997. And yet, in the trailers, we see a young adult John Connor in a world that looks very pre-apocalyptic to me. Not only that, but the good old airborne Hunter-Killer from the first two movies is suddenly looking quite a bit different; much sleeker. What is going on, we wonder? Although Stan Winston has returned to handle the designs, will a Terminator movie with no input from James Cameron do the previous continuity justice?

And on top of that, for all you American Civil War buffs out there, there's a nice Gods & Generals trailer up. Gods & Generals is the prequel to the movie Gettysburg, directed by the same man, Ron Maxwell, and seeing Jeff Daniels return to the role of Union troop leader Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, but with Robert Duvall in the role of Confederate General Robert E. Lee (Martin Sheen played Lee in Gettysburg). All you TRON and Babylon 5 nuts out there ought to take note, too - although you don't really see him in the trailer, the role of Confederate General James Longstreet, played by Tom Berenger in Gettysburg, will be played by none other than Bruce Boxleitner in Gods & Generals.

I nearly missed our department's Christmas Lunch today; it was a trying morning, so I nipped off a little early to get some food, and when I came back an hour later, there was the reminder for the lunch! Thankfully, I rushed over to the local club where it was on, and got there in time for some good conversation. John brought up the subject of my web site, and Allison, my manager, seemed quite surprised that I had one! Anyway, I'll be sending her the URL so she can have a look. She's also gone on three weeks of well-deserved leave, leaving John and I in charge of our department.

It looks like it'll be a Weekend of Movies for Vickie and I. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Die Another Day are on, and we're keen to see both; so we think we'll see them at Hornsby; one tomorrow and one on Sunday. On top of that, we hired Wonder Boys out on DVD from Video Ezy on Sunday, so we're going to have to watch that (maybe tonight) before it needs to go back.

I couldn't resist mentioning the idea of Xboxing Day in my last news post, but it wasn't exactly serious - I don't particularly wish to die at Vickie's hands, and after Christmas at Dan and Lesley's, we'll likely both need the recovery time. But I might just whack a poll up on it for a laugh! On the topic of Xbox, I made the mistake of checking out this week's Let's GameSpot! streaming video show; it's the show where they fill you in on the upcoming new releases of the week. This week, they featured Crimson Sea, which I wasn't particularly interested in - until I saw some of those visuals. Even in semi-quality streaming video it looks like good stuff. Not only does the action look impressive, but the plot seems very SF/noir, and what I heard of the voice acting sounds quality as well. It's nudged its way into my "Might Splurge On" list along with MechAssault.

After, of course, I've spent some money on Heavy Gear miniatures for the Black Talon campaign. My players will be glad to know that I've been keeping it in mind, and making notes in my nigh-ever-present notebook. I want to organise them as I did with the campaign specifications document I wrote early this year. I've been thinking mainly about scenarios, the tactical system, plot points and non-player characters, and I have something of a checklist of things I want to write up in more depth. Also on the roleplaying front: Dan has announced he'd like to run another session of Champions in January. Vickie and I reckon we can make it along, and our fingers are crossed for John and Roger, who were unfortunately unable to attend November's session.

At the end of January, we have a friend from the U.S. arriving. Her name's Jillian, and we'll be hosting her until February the ninth. We're looking forward to showing her around Sydney (avoiding the tourist spots whenever possible), and I'm sure she'd like to meet some of you nutters.

Whoo! That's one heck of a long posting! I'd better go and eat some dinner. See you soon!

December 15, 2002

Dude, Where's My (thingy)?

Sorry, guys; couldn't resist another update.

It's on the general topic of Nick Irving's Achtung! Wo Ist Mein Panzerkampfer? Ever since Nick came up with it, he's been peppered with suggestions of similar games in other genres. Gav and I came up with a few:

  • TK-421, Where's My AT-AT? (Gav), where five stormtroopers wake up after a night in the Mos Eisley cantina and can't find where they left the General's walker.
  • Anakin, Where's My Lightsabre? (Gav)
  • Gollum, Where's My Ring? (Me), where five Ring Wraiths hung over from one too many pints of mead at the Prancing Pony bumble from town to town in a wacky Middle Earth, trying to find their master's missing One Ring; the only clues they have are that it's with some guy named "Shire" in a place called "Baggins". A fun little romp accompanied by lots of bitching about just whose bright idea it was to accept the Nine Rings in the first place.

Has anyone else come up with any? Can you think of any? Suggestions/ideas in e-mail, please, or if you're an IMAGinewS member, please send them there for discussion; I intend to post a few with full credit to the originator.

Random Pre-Christmas Gaming Stuff

(Yawn) Afternoon all! Just got up after trying to catch a couple more hours of sleep. Party was great all round; great food (thanks be to the Vickie for all her hard work), great company (thanks be to all you cats who turned up) and just a dash of great gaming (thanks be to the Xbox and that fourth controller I bought). People came and went at various times, and Vickie and I finally got to bed somewhere between three and four this morning; Gav, Rog and Mandi, our sleeping-over crew, stayed up and chatted for another hour or so. Rog wandered off at around twenty to nine, I ran Gav to MacquarieCon for nine o'clock and Mandi headed out at around one PM.

It's stinking hot up here at the moment; the only reason I'm actually awake right now is because I'm sweating too much to sleep comfortably. I can't smell any smoke in the air; hopefully this hot spell won't touch off another run of bushfires. Thankfully, there's not much housework to do. Vickie and I got the washing-up done last night, while the party was winding down.

On the bad news front, we learned that someone broke into Nick's palace (see, that was originally "palce", a typo of "place", and I just clicked on "Change" without seeing what the spell checker suggested, but after seeing Nick's home, I think the spell checker got it right) and stole his Apple Mac a few days ago; not only was the act a bastard in itself, but all of his notes for Achtung, Wo Ist Mein Panzerkampfer?, the Gear Krieg module he was going to run at MacquarieCon, were on the hard drive. Somehow, probably from the sheer amount of work he's put into it over thew past year, he was able to cobble together something playable from his random, scattered paper-notes and his gaming lizard hind-brain and get into MacCon, where he's been nigh running himself into the ground with packed sessions (how he had time to drag his lady Jacinta along to our party last night with another game at 9AM today [which, coincidentally, Gav was playing in], I don't know). Right now, though, thanks to some fucker's despicable act, he has no access to e-mail, and that, coupled with the loss of his mobile, he's halfway uncontactable (at least, by modern standards). We didn't catch whether anything else was removed form his domicile, but after our break-in last year, where the thief netted over ten grand worth of Vickie's jewellery, we can certainly empathise. All our best wishes to you, mate.

Speaking of MacquarieCon, we might try to organise our next Christmas party for the weekend before (or after, depending on the date they choose to run MacCon and the overall layout of next year's calendar). That way, I can drop in and/or maybe even write a module for it. (And in between, I might even write Honour and the Game up in HTML for the web site.)

And while we're on the general gaming topic, I'd like to thank Nick and Dan for the loan of the Star Wars Revised Core Rulebook and Hero System 5th Edition, respectively. Both have been interesting from a prospective purchaser point of view, but the latter has been handy for me to understand exactly what's going on with the rules of Dan's Champions campaign. Vickie's also asked me to sit her down and explain this whole roleplaying game rules thing to her sometime soon.

On site business, thank you to everyone who voted in the poll on the What I'm Doing/Reading/Watching sub-section of the site; the vote was unanimously for it. So I'll get stuck into adding it over the next week. Are there any particular things about my current situation that you guys are interested in? PC/Xbox Games? Movies? Comics? Web articles? Suggestions, please, to my e-mail address.

Just ten days until Christmas! Are you counting the days? Made up your list for Santa? I notice that the majority of you who've voted think you'll be on Santa's list of nice boys and girls, and I'm wondering whom one or two of you are trying to fool. ;-D When we were at Dan and Lesley's place last, there was some discussion as to what we should bring when we visit them on Christmas Day. I jokingly suggested the Xbox, which Lesley sternly rebuked, And I shrugged my shoulders and said that I ought to save it until Boxing Day - or Xboxing Day, as may be more appropriate. I've entertained the idea of celebrating Xboxing Day at our place by getting some of you gaming nuts over (with the odd thought of Cameron bringing his Xbox and TV for some system-link fun), but I have this feeling that Vickie would kill me if I tried it.

Oh yeah; you remember that Heavy Gear mapsheet I spilled Coke on? It dried so well that you'd hardly know it had had anything spilled on it; the ink didn't even run at all! Thank you Dream Pod 9 for your quality product!

And finally, it's the last day of MacquarieCon today. In fact, as I write this (at half past six PM), I imagine prize-giving is underway; it may even be that the crew has packed up and charged off to the pub (most likely the Off Broadway in the city) for the usual piss-up. Is anyone going to be putting a post-con report together? If so, I'd like to read it.

December 09, 2002

Massively Multi-Poster Online Ranting, Pontification and Gossip

Bloody heck! I go to work for a day and look what happens! Thirty-eight posts on the IMAGinewS list! It looks like there'll be a few people signing up with Optus at Strathfield Car Radios to get a free Xbox. I just followed up Marcus' solid research with a look at the Strathfield web site, and if the ad in their catalogue is any indication, it's the basic set (console, standard controller, composite adaptor cable, no games) with a Controller S either as well as or in place of the standard Controller (that might be bait-and-switch, though, I dunno).

In the middle of all that, though, a discussion on fashion sprung up out of nowhere, followed immediately by a debate on the relative merits of sanity, and then amputation and twelve-year-old-girls somehow crept in. I know we're all crazy as fruitbats, but the nature of the psychoses of some of us is beginning, if you'll pardon the pun, to disturb me.

But enough of that. Despite my having fuck-all idea of what to do for the Fireteam sessions, they went off almost without a hitch - I managed to knock Mandi's glass of Coke all over one of my mapsheets yesterday. I have several more, but it was a bit of a pain. But still, despite my blathering beforehand, everything went pretty smoothly. Still, I went to work today thinking, "Ooo er. Forgot about that. And that. Oh, and that..." The sort of things that might have made the outcome of the weekend's skirmishes quite different... Well, that's what next session is for. I think I'll set up a big map, get all the players on it, then drop them right in. I'll illustrate what I have in mind in the Training Report that I shall write...

This week is going to be fairly frantic. Vickie's going to be dashing around tomorrow doing the shopping for the Christmas party on Saturday (so those of you coming, be sure to be extra nice to her). I'm going to be contributing by buying that extra Xbox Controller. Yeah, I know, you don't have to tell me. Still, when I ask Vickie if I can help in the kitchen, she usually tells me I can help by stay out of it. ;-D Thursday night is the Soup Plus night, and Friday is my work Christmas party (Vickie's asked me whether I'm going to behave; I have no idea what she's on about). Vickie's work's Christmas party was last Friday - yes, her work night. In fact, she was asked whether she could go in early so one of the others could go home and change.

Still, even with all the scrambling around preparing beforehand and cleaning up afterward, we're really looking forward to the party.

December 05, 2002

Feeling the Heat

Evening, folks. If, like Vickie and I, you're in the Sydney area, you have our hopes that you're not in an at-risk fire area; if you are, our best wishes. At the moment, we know that Gav and family, and Dan, Lesley and their littlies, are close to a big blaze that jumped Berowra Creek this afternoon; we also strongly suspect that Notlih and his family may be at risk, as Galston Road has been closed. All our hopes to you. We'd also like to send a special wish to Baz, who's a volunteer firefighter; I think he'll have been called in by now. Don't eat too much smoke out there, bro.

There's a fire burning in Wahroonga, not far from us, but we had ones there last year, and they didn't climb the valley to get to us. There was also another fire in Thornleigh a day or two ago, but it appears to have either burned itself out or been extinguished.

In a total and utter change of subject, I'd like to welcome two new subscribers to the IMAGinewS list: the ALpha (we will learn more of his wisdom later) and je1505, whom we think may be a good friend from Mexico (y' know - South of the Border).

It's official - Soup Plus closes on Saturday, December the Fourteenth. For those of you who don't know it, it's a jazz restaurant at 383 George Street, Wynyard, and it's been host to some great local acts. Yes, Vickie and I were planning to go in this evening, and Gav and Mandi were coming with us - but Gav has quite wisely decided to stick it out at home, in case he and his family need to pack and git, and we decided that we'd prefer to be here at home for our friends in case they need somewhere to go after packing and gitting. Still, we're planning to re-book for next Thursday, and if more of you would like to come along, please let us know by, say, Monday and we'll book a table. I recommend it; the food is cheap but good and you'll have the last chance to sample some of the Soup's unique atmosphere. (Vickie's laughing; she calls it a dive, and I sort of agree with her, but it's a dive like they just don't make 'em any more.)

We're going to nip out tonight to eat out and do some Christmas present shopping. I'll most likely be working from home tomorrow, just in case we're needed to dash somewhere in Madam Lash and help a friend in need.

December 03, 2002

I Don't Miss The Dancer

A warning: This rant is fairly personal, so if you're not keen on sorting through some of my emotional baggage, please feel free to stop reading.

This one all started earlier today. John T was playing some Latin music while he was working, which is cool - he's got a good taste in relax-while-you-work music, including some nifty jazz by guys like St. Germain. It makes a nice change from my Steely Dan-dominated playlist. Suddenly, a track grabs my attention - my dance teacher used it, back when I was doing Latin dance classes in the city of a Wednesday night. I kept working, with half an ear on the music as I kept on doing database stuff, and sure enough, the very next track was also one I knew from dancing. I asked John whether he'd taken any lessons; he hadn't.

Now, you cats who knew me before I hooked up with Vickie know I was a fairly busy person. I'd joined the Pymble Players, an amateur theatre group, and acted in two plays and assistant-stage-managed another. I did a year of TAFE during the evening, and was taking Latin dance lessons since late 1998.

All that pretty much ground to a halt when I got Vickie to move down here. I'd stopped doing theatre whilst TAFE was on during the evenings in 2000, and I had planned to hold off going back to TAFE to complete my IT diploma until this year, doing another play or two in that time lurked in the back of my mind. I was also turning up semi-regularly to the ClubSmed Friday-night RPG sessions. After Vickie and I moved in together, I joined the 2001 term of dancing lessons, but stopped going after a few weeks. An observer might be forgiven for thinking that I'd given up my "life".

I will admit, there was a while where I was thinking the exact same thing. In my own eyes, I wasn't the most social of people during high school and a few years after, and from 1999 to early 2001, I was getting out, doing things, meeting people. Now, all of a sudden, I was spending my nights "in". What the heck was I thinking? I wanted to dance, I wanted to get up on stage again, I felt like not going back to TAFE was flushing my possibility for further education, a better career and more pay down the can, but how could I do that without spending time - in the case of amateur theatre, a significant amount of time, like three nights a week for three months, or if I was going to do TAFE, a whole year - away from Vickie? How was that fair to her, after she'd made an investment of a lot of money and a heck of a lot of emotion and soul-searching to be with me?

Needless to say, I've long since stopped running those circles in my head. But today, listening to those familiar tunes coming from John's speakers, I realised something - I didn't really miss it. I didn't feel compelled to start dancing again, fun as it was, good exercise as it was. I thought about the other things I'd given up: Acting? TAFE? Sources of some fun memories and good learning experiences both, but I didn't feel any nagging, gnawing, get-your-life-back need to get into them again.

Occasionally during the rest of the day, on the way home, and this evening as I write this, I took a page from Heinlein's Starship Troopers and took my soul out and gave it a look to try and find out why I no longer particularly gave a shit. Please indulge me in a little autobiography as I try and figure it out.

I never really enjoyed my life at home or at school from 1989 onward. I didn't seem to get on with most of my high school year; I had (and as Vickie will attest, still have) a pretty thin skin when it comes to teasing, and the ragging I got for my name, my accent (still obviously English, especially at the start of high school) and almost any reason at all, including a "Jackaroo"-brand backpack I had at one time (draw your own conclusions), meant I pretty much stuck with a small group of friends, including Jake and Cameron - in fact, Jake and Cameron are the only friends I still have from my high school days. I thought of myself then, and still do think of myself to some extent, as the quiet one, the one who doesn't say much in social situations because frankly, he's got no idea what to say without sounding like an idiot, geek or nerd.

I wasn't a spectacular success academically, either. I didn't do assignments (not in terms of nightly homework, but the larger, three-to-six-months-to-complete projects) on time, and the final effort, handed in late, was usually lackluster. They were these huge, looming things that I tried to forget, simply because I didn't know how to start something that big. Of course, Mum and Dad, especially Dad, were rather miffed, to say the least. Failing out of Macquarie University after the first year didn't help; by the end of 1996, I considered myself a useless, skinny, unfit waste-of-space who blew over $2,000 of his parents' money in Uni fees (not to mention what they spent on fees and books at North Sydney Boys High School for a mediocre TER of 66.25), cruised through life on a nice-boy personality and didn't make any effort to live up to a potential I knew I had - well, I had to, hadn't I? Everyone kept telling me I wasn't living up to it. I didn't even have the guts to kill myself, and suicide was something I was thinking about daily in my education years, especially in high school.

On top of that, I had a hobby - roleplaying games - that was not only oddball, but that I spent more time reading the books of than I did actually playing or GMing, so I was socially inept and failing at being socially inept. Mum and Dad, I think, despaired that I was never particularly social, that I never had much interest in sport; Dad recommended in his various life-talks that I get myself an interest in such things as rugby, soapies and the like, so that I could socialise with people of my own age group. It never happened, of course. You can probably deduce that acting and dancing were my way of showing myself and everyone else that I wasn't entirely a write-off, that I could learn how to do social things and actually be likeable and popular. And maybe - just maybe - I could find a girl and fall in love, or at least get laid on something resembling a regular basis.

[As a side note, I gave up the dancing lessons because I nearly managed to fuck up our relationship within a couple of months of it starting. One of the class-goers had invited me to a party at her place, and although I'd told her I'd like to bring my Lady a couple of times, she seemed (in my opinion, anyway) to miss the "I'm taken" inference, saying "of course you can bring your friend along". I accepted out of my need to be social, but also because it was the first time a single, interesting and seemingly interested woman had ever invited me, dorky me, to a party. Talk about your ego-boost. Thankfully, Vickie brought me to my senses, and we didn't go. The idea of going back to the dancing lessons after that was a little too uncomfortable.]

But here I am, a couple of years down the track, and I really don't care about any of that any more.

I think it helps that I'm living out of home, not having to see my parents every day and thinking how much of a disappointment I must be to them in just living my life the way I wanted. I have a group of friends whom I see regularly, most of whom I've either met after high school or just recently. I feel comfortable in my life, my friendships and my love. My relationship with Mum and Dad is still rather strained; we get along very civilly when I go and see them (Vickie's usually working evenings whenever there's a family occasion), but although they can accept Vickie as a person, they think she's wrong for me. My job could be better in some respects, but my team-mates and my manager are all good, friendly people, and I have a future and am actually making a contribution. I've slowed down, got some meat on my bones (some say a little too much these days) and stopped panicking. I live clean aside from the odd beer now and then. I don't need to show Mum and Dad what a good little socialite I'm being. If Mum, Dad, any of my other blood relations or acquaintances have a problem with my life or the fact that I love Vickie Bowman - let me state that again for the record: I love Vickie Bowman - that's their problem, not mine. I've caused myself enough angst, I'm not taking theirs.

So, I suppose I simply don't need dancing, or theatre, or any other form of frantic clutching for attention to tell me I'm a worthwhile person any more. I've got the sort of friends I always wished I had, a beautiful woman with whom I share a mutually nurturing and beneficial relationship, and enough self-confidence to actually deal with whatever life throws my way. Instead of looking at all those un-used RPG books on the shelves and ho-humming over campaigns not played, I'm running one (and stressing about what I'm going to throw at the players next session) and playing in two. Life is fucking great, thank you very much for asking, I wish you could have a slice of it.

I don't know whether it's a self-deception to refer to myself in the past as another person, because it's still me, but I don't need to be that other person any more. I don't need his fears, his insecurities, his doubts or his desparate need for any positive attention; some of them may still linger on in me, but I'm working on getting them out of the way (and making room for some all-new fears, insecurities and doubts).

I may miss the dancing, occasionally - but I sure as heck don't miss the dancer.

December 01, 2002

Shelving, Shopping and Shlepping off to a Party

This also allowed us to re-organise the book shelves in the living room (they're now organised roughly by genre) and made some more room on the computer room shelves for me to put the RPG books I retrieved from Mum & Dad's. I also put my miniatures gaming boards (two thin 3' by 4' pieces of wood painted green on one side and gray on the other) in the wardrobe in the spare room, covered by a plastic drop-sheet so they won't rub against - and possibly leave paint on - any clothes in there. (Yes, folks, this does mean I'm now fully geared up again for Necromunda or any other mini gaming you cats want to do.)

We also bought a new computer chair for Vickie (the gas bottle on her old one had given up the ghost) and some china cooking bowls. All up, we paid $60, including delivery, for the lot. Good shopping on Vickie's part, eh? After we paid for the lot and arranged for them to be delivered, we replenished our pantry at Coles Asquith (which is a much more pleasant shopping experience than the one in Hornsby; we might just make it our regular shopping venue) and headed for home, wherein we re-organised the shelves and took delivery of the new ones.

Nicholas J. Irving sent us an invitation on Monday night to his house party last night. We were hesitant in replying; Jake Surman's birthday was recently, and he's having trouble organising a party. We didn't have any plans for this weekend, and we were going to give first dibs to Jake, but we didn't hear from him by Saturday morning. I sent an e-mail off to Nick before we went shopping, asking for his address. (You see, we didn't know it and his invitation didn't bloody include it or his home phone number, did it now?) However, when we got back, Bigpond Cable had dropped out. An automated message on their tech support line said the problem was nationwide, and gave a service-restoration estimate of six PM. No such luck; when we tried again just before midnight, it was still down and the message had revised the estimate to 9 AM today. We had no way of knowing whether Nick had seen it and replied. (He hadn't; the bastard didn't even check all day. Yes, I know he's probably reading this.) We wound up frantically trying to reach Gav, who has a new mobile phone. (He did mention it at one point, but I thought I had it already. Silly me; the number I had was for the old family mobile, so I got his Mum instead, who told me to call home after six when his sister got in.) I finally reached Gav while he was trekking from Roseville station to Nick's place, and he gave me the address.

Anyway, enough slagging off Nick, no matter how much he may deserve it; he's a lovely bloke, really. He also has a fine taste in friends (which ought to be obvious from the fact that Vickie and I are two of them, but I digress); we met Matty (who's a DJ), Ness (whom I actually knew already but didn't recognise at first; she's the younger sister of a bloke I knew from the Dark Days [high school]), Bill (who is a fellow gamer), Jason and Anne, and a few others whose names I can't remember, but good, fun and interesting people, all. Vickie reckons she shocked Matty by absolutely not giving a stuff that he was cutting up weed, and judging from the giggling going on out on the balcony, there was a goodly portion of the party goers getting a little high. Oh yeah, speaking of the balcony: Nick's family home is a gorgeous place, with a fine view of Middle Harbour (marred only by the Roseville Bridge). I was plotting to kill them all and move into the place.

The occasion that prompted the party was jackass night on MTV, in conjunction with the upcoming jackass the movie. This was the first time we'd had any serious exposure to jackass, and I think we were both rather surprised at how funny we found a lot of it. Vickie had the presence of mind to have a ciggie out on the balcony through most of it, but I stayed and watched quite a bit. Most everyone found it hilarious, but although there were a few inventive skits, and schadenfreude is always somewhat fun, I'm rather thankful it's only available on cable. (We don't have and don't particularly want it, and jackass didn't serve to change our minds.)

There was also some GTA3 going on on PS2 when we arrived, but I wasn't particularly interested. I was exposed, though, to the first episode of Invader Zim, which Nick had downloaded on the family Apple. A few people in the 28 Barbary Lane forum love it to bits, and I can kind of see why. It's one of those quirky, offbeat cartoons that aren't quite what you expect. The dialogue was a lot less weird than I was expecting, but the whole thing was still very funny!

We left at just after eleven, and gave Gav a lift home.

We sent out a reminder for our Christmas party, and some more responses came trickling in, but there are still several people whom we've not heard from. After today, we're assuming that anyone who hasn't replied isn't coming and won't be catered for, so if you'd like to, can you please let us know by this evening? And as I wrote in a supplementary mailout yesterday, if we left you off the list by accident, can you give us a hoy?