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October 30, 2005

Slightly Better Day

Took the Netgear wireless game adapter back to Hardly Normal today and got a refund, $20 of which I then spent on 20 metres of Cat5 network cable. We had a big supermarket shopping trip, and got back in about twenty minutes ago. I've ran the cable from the router, down the hall, across the dining room floor, down the steps and behind the TV cbainet. Made it with at least a metre of slack.

Right now, the Xbox is patching itself from the Live servers. (Woohoo!) Interesting that the $170 solution failed when the $20 solution presented no problems. Draw from that what you will.

Sometime very soon, I'll be taking drill and hole-saw to the living room wall and the computer room floor, then crawling under the house with the cable, a hammer and some staples and get that Cat5 cable out of the way.

Plus, the subwoofer's up again. I'm thinking of getting someone in to look at it anyway, but I think the solution is to switch it off at the main switch at the back every evening.

Oh, and I bought Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" on single. That song always cheers me up.

The Bottom Line

The point of Saturday evening's post was that the reasons why we decided to leave Sydney had nothing to do with our friends. We didn't leave because of our friends; our friends are the reason we wish we could have stayed.

Which is why Vickie and I are thoroughly sick and fucking tired of our friends treaing us as though we were casual acquaintances, both before and after we left Sydney.

October 29, 2005

Why I Decided to Leave Sydney

If you head on over to Vickie's website, you'll find a post detailing her feelings on the matter of friendship and staying in touch. She talks about me quite a bit in it, and I have to say, she's spot on right down the line, both about me and about the rest. I don't feel as though I can let it go without some comments from me as well.

Now, in case you're wondering, this has all come out of a rather dodgy day capped off by an equally disappointing evening. You could say I'm being spiteful. You could be glad I'm opening up. You can dismiss me as having a silly rant. Whatever, just read it first.

For a long time, we've both felt that we were getting short shrift from people we consider friends, especially when we sent them invitations to get-togethers or games. Our messages effectively said, "We like you; we'd like to see you more often." Sure, we accepted the fact that the people we invited all had lives and busy schedules, but the fact that so few of them had the decency to get back to us with even a "Sorry, we can't make it", even after a follow-up or two - not to mention all the no-shows and "Oh, sorry, was it today?"s we got from many of the people who did respond with an affirmative - gave us the message loud and clear: "Rob, Vickie, you're just not worth the effort."

Telling us what a slack bastard / bitch you are is not an excuse, it's an explanation, and not a good one.

So let me give you some explanations myself, ones that soud less like half-baked poetry. Oh, the reasons in that post are definitley valid and true - but I feel that it's high time I gave you the real meat, told you the prime reasons why I - note that, not Vickie, but I - decided to leave Sydney.

Let's crank that good old WABAC Machine up and skip back to May of 2004, a nice, short trip. Grandma, my Dad's Mum, had just died. You may remember that a couple of days later, I made a cryptic mention of bad news coming in threes. The first thing was that letter from the EPA re. good old Madam Lash's smoking exhaust. The second was Gran dying. A few of you already know what the third was, and although I was being cryptic out of respect for privacy, I think there's enough time between now and then, plus it's high time the rest of you know.

A couple of weeks earlier, one of the guys at the office, the one who worked in the other half of my team, Product Management, had reached the end of his six-week notice and left the firm. After finding out the bad news about Grandma, I'd taken Monday off, and got in on Tuesday to be told that this guy, whom I'll admit I didn't know too well but liked nonetheless, had committed suicide.

Now, this took everyone at work by complete surprise. Blindsided us all. Sure, the job was clearly and evidently driving him up the fucking wall. Imagine someone who cannot suffer fools having to surround himself with them, work under them, in order to keep food on the table: he had shakes, regular smoke-o breaks, the whole verging-on-nervous-breakdown works, and somehow none of that prevented him from doing a bang-up job. That was why we figured quitting was the best thing for this guy; it was his first step on the way to a better life. He'd been talking about moving North and doing something entirely non-IT related, and I thought that was what he'd do, we all did. Instead, for reasons known only to himself (and I hope never to know or understand them), he took his own life.

Vickie was working that night, and because money was, as usual, a little on the tight side, she couldn't take the time off, so I called a few mates who kept me company. For their time and generosity, I'm very grateful.

The funeral was huge; most of work and most of his home town turned out for it. I cried. Hell, I cried in the therapy session that work organised for me on the Tuesday I found about what he'd done to himself.

Okay, fast forward a few months. Vickie and I had gotten married. Our honeymoon had been shorter than we'd hoped, and I wasn't looking forward to the day that I'd have to tell Mum & Dad - not because I wasn't proud of what we'd done, but because I was expecting an inevitable shitstorm from my family when I finally told them. Also, we'd been looking around Maitland while we were up there for our honeymoon. We were still entertaining thoughts of buying a place of our own, and the Hunter area seemed like a good place to live and quite possibly work.

Then, barely two weeks after Vickie and I got married, Mum went to bed after a sleepless night and didn't wake up. Because I'd forgotten my mobile, Dad called Vickie, who called my boss Allison, who called me into her office as soon as I got to work. When she mentioned bad news, I thought that both Mum and Dad had gone, simply because I couldn't imagine them not doing anything together. I went straight home, and from there Vickie and I went to Mum & Dad's.

I cried when I saw Mum's body that Friday morning, but I didn't cry at the funeral. I wondered how it was that I could cry publicly for a bloke I'd only known a year or so but not for my own mother. Maybe because I wasn't ready to face it (maybe I'm still not). Maybe I'd cried all my tears that Friday morning. Maybe because three-plus years of treading carefully around my family to avoid getting more shit over Vickie had taken their toll. Maybe it was because, as I told Dad that Christmas, Vickie was there for me, sitting right behind me, while it was just me at my colleague's funeral. Or maybe because Dad had taken an opportunity on the very Friday morning that Mum died to take me aside and have a few choice words with me about my inheritance of the house and the family's opinion of Vickie and I was waiting for him or someone else to decide the best way to deal with their grief was to take more potshots at yours truly. Maybe all of the above.

Hard to believe? I'd say fair enough, but what you don't know is that on that Friday morning, Mum's immediate family made their way to Mum and Dad's, and while most of them were willing to tell me what I should or should not be doing for and around Dad, and how I should or should not do it, not one of them said to me, "Rob, you've just lost your mother, and that must be awful. If you need anything, we're here." (Actually, one of them, on our way out, actually told Vickie, "take care of him".) I actually said "If you need anything, I'm here." to Dad on that day, a few times, and it took him until the family Christmas lunch - after he'd had another few shots at me about lack of interest in pursuing a technician-type IT career and vaious other things - to actually ask me how I'd been doing all this time.

I've skipped ahead a little more than I'd intended. Let me go back again to October. Vickie's birthday was coming up, and I was finally hoping to catch a break after everything that had happened over the last five months, when Dan and Lesley split up. We put Dan up for a few days which turned into almost a week - despite his insistence that he knew he was imposing on us at a tough time (this was a month after Mum's death), I had to nag him to find out whether he'd called his new boss about subsequent accomodation as he'd said he would. He was also rather rude to us during his stay. During that time, I said to Vickie more than once, "Makes you wish we were back in Cairns, doesn't it?"

So Dan finally leaves on the Sunday after Vickie's birthday. I decide to take Monday off for a mental health day. I walk into work Tuesday morning, and Allison called me into her office again. The day before, she'd finally decided that she'd had enough of being overworked, under-recognised, under-rewarded and generally treated like shit by her peers, managers and staff and handed in her notice.

After talking with Allison for a while, I walked straight out the front of the office, called Vickie on my mobile and said, "Guess what? Allison's just quit. ... you know what, I've had it. Let's move to Cairns." If someone as intelligent, dedicated and hard-working as Allison could no longer see a future for herself at that firm, I couldn't see any future for me there or anywhere else in the field in Sydney. I was buggered if I was going to wait until I got ground into the concrete like Allison had been before I decided to quit.

If you've read everything up until now, you'd probably be thinking that Allison quitting was just the last straw, and by God or whoever you do or don't worship you'd be very, very right. Aside from a very few bright spots it had been a miserable six months in Sydney, and I had no hope of it ever getting better. It was time to go, and already having a place of our own up here only sweetened the idea.

(By the way, did any of you know that I was taking advantage of work's Employee Assistance Program and seeing a psychologist every other week after Mum died? The last time I did so I was working for Advantra, and not long after that I decided to take a risk and quit that place with nothing to go on to. Sound familiar?)

Now, I figured I might be missed. Actually, I not-so-secretly hoped for a mass-exodus from Sydney as you guys thought, "Hell, if Rob can't stand it here any more, is there anything that makes staying here worthwhile for me?" and followed us up here. A fond pipe dream, absolutely, never thought it anything but. Still, the worst part of leaving was leaving you all behind. I missed you guys and girls, and still do. Evidently, though, not many of you returned the sentiment.

That town chews people up and spits them out, and if you can't see what you're letting it do to you, and what you're letting yourselves do to each other, then I pity you. No, of course there's no guarantee Cairns won't turn out the same way, but Vickie and I are hanging onto our slice of peace for as long as we damned well can. Recently, I was of the belief that the miracle of modern technology would mean that I could still share some of the fun I enjoyed with a lot of you, but based on tonight and a few weeks ago, given the choice between optimal conditions and not gaming with me, some of you would prefer the latter.

Now you've reached the end of this post, there's only one more thing I want you to know. If you want to get in touch with me about this, no matter what you think or feel or have to say, please do so. You likely have our e-mail addresses, and you probably already have our number. Vickie and I will be home most of tomorrow.

Sometimes I Hate Gadgets...

Earlier today, I was thinking today's post was going to be one of those I'm Weak posts, you know, how I'd been swearing off buying something I wanted only to not so guiltily splurge on it after all? Heh. Yeah.

So Vickie and I are on a gardening shopping trip today and I casually mention dropping into Hardly Normal. I'd been playing Halo 2 earlier on, and one of the "while you're waiting" videos that plays when you leave it on the startup screens shows a flash of some cool-looking multiplayer. And The Itch set in. Bugger waiting for the Xbox 360, I wanted some of that cool multiplayer stuff!

Anyway, on the proviso of looking for a new printer, Vickie agrees that stopping in at Hardly's isn't a bad idea. About half an hour later, we walk out with a cash-purchase deal on an Epson printer/scanner combo (which we've been needing for a good while), some photo paper, a Netgear WGE111 Wireless Game Adapter, an Xbox Live Starter Kit and the Halo 2 Multiplayer Map Pack. A stop in at Bunnings for a good selection of plants and gardening gear, and we're on our way back home.

Fast forward a frustration-filled few hours. As far as I can see, both the WGE111 and my existing WGR614 wireless router are both working fine - except neither of them are talking to each other. Although there are only ten, maybe twelve metres of space between them, that space includes three walls, which are, it would seem, enough to sunder wireless communication. So, no luck with connecting to Xbox Live.

Heck, we already knew this place was a mobile dead zone. That should've been a fucking warning sign, don't you think?

I'll take the adapter back to Hardly's tomorrow, but I'm going to hang on to Live and the Map Pack for the moment. I mentioned that we want to get a sparkie in to put another power point into the computer room wall. We picked up an electrical brochure at a home & garden expo a few months back, and one of the featured items was a wall socket for an RJ45 plug; I'm hoping the sparkie can install one in the PC room and one in the living room, then run a Cat5 cable connecting the two under the house.

But it's still damned depressing, especially when I was guilt-tripping myself like crazy about the waste of money earlier. Not to mention the fact that unless either of us gets a wireless-enabled laptop, the router's wireless function is also useless (and even then, it looks as though we'd only be able to connect up only as far as the bedroom).

And you know what else? Remember I mentioned they mysterious resurrection of the speaker system in my last batch of posts? Well, the subwoofer decided to give up the ghost again this afternoon. I don't know whether the damned thing's being temperamental or whether I nudged something I shouldn't have whilst juggling power points, but I really didn't need that on top of everything else today. Looks like I'll have to shell out for a speaker repairman after all.

Even Microsoft Word crashed - twice - while I was trying to write this post. I gave up and just wrote it in the Movable Type client (I hope you'll forgive any typos I missed).

I'm glad I've got Vickie. She's been giving be lots of hugs in the wake of all this.

Oh, and the new printer works like a dream!

October 24, 2005

A Virus Wearing Pumps And Pearls

Our town is just like any other
Good citizens at work and play
Normal folks doin' business in the normal way
This morning was like any other
Mommies kissing daddies goodbye
Then the milkman screamed
And pointed up at the sky

From Sheilus to the reefs of Kizmar
From Stargate and the Outer Worlds
They're speeding towards our sun
They're on a party run
Here come Tomorrow's Girls

- Donald Fagen, "Tomorrow's Girls", Kamakiriad, Reprise Records (1993)

This was what went through my mind when I read some Forge byplay about Alien Angels, one of the submissions for the September round of Ron Edwards' Ronnies contest, where contestants build roleplaying games in 24 hours. Alien Angels is the submission of one Michael Walton, detailing races of aliens that come to Earth to breed. Female hot babe aliens, of course, not those icky aliens that just suck face and leave (through your chest).

Now, if you've ever heard "Tomorrow's Girls", you'd probably understand why I immediately started thinking about it while reading the above thread. I figured I'd do Michael a favour and send him a link to the Steely Dan website. But first, I downloaded the RPG itself in PDF format.

And right there on the first page is: "Dedicated to: Donald Fagen who, quite without meaning to, gave me the idea."

Roleplaying game, science fiction, (one half of) Steely Dan, all in one neat little package. It doesn't get any better than that.

October 23, 2005

Xbox 360: No Rush.

And finally tonight: Drawing the Xbox threads from today's previous posts out, I've quickly looked into the sequel console, the Xbox 360. The official website says that the new console isn't due in Australia until early next year. Some of you have probably already heard that it comes in two flavours; the bells-and-whistles flavour and the stripped down, bare-bones flavour, which some are already claiming is a hobbled version of the complete console (somewhat unsurprising, as the basic unit doesn't come with a hard drive).

Of course, the questions are, will I be getting one, and if so, when and what version?

The answers are: Probably; no earlier than the release of Halo 3; most likely the full version (with any luck, no more expensive than AU$550). At the moment, it's pegged for Quarter 2 of 2006, but Halo 2's release date was bumped back once or twice to give the dev crew more time. Also, Xbox supremo Robbie Bach has been quoted saying the Gaming Dev Crew Mantra: "It'll Be Ready When It's Done."

As an aside, it's an interesting change from Bill Gates' crowing about how the PS3 launch would run smack into the release of Halo 3 not too long ago. Bach seems to be applying a little spin to that, but even so I doubt Bill would risk screwing up the third part of his hit console franchise in an attempt to piss Sony off (if that's possible). Still, I can't help but wonder how the hell Bungie will have time to develop the game in between liaising with Peter Jackson and the WETA Workshop on the Halo movie and all. (And if they'll ever get to work on those other projects they said they wanted to do after Halo 2 hit shelves.)

Getting back to me, though: As both of the 360 packages come with Live subscriptions, I don't see much point in getting Xbox Live now, only to get another subscription and headset with the 360. Sure, by all reports, multiplayer Halo 2 is fun, but I'm not in that much of a hurry to get stuck into it (besides, I don't think any of my readership has Live). Therefore, the wireless bridge can also wait until until next year.

Mysterious Resurrection

Oh, by the way: I don't know whether I mentioned this when it happened - I believe I didn't - but the subwoofer of our Novo speaker set started refusing to work about six months ago, thus denying the satellites power. After letting it sit in the corner for all that time, I decided to try it out again - and all of a sudden, it works! (I dunno, maybe it was working fine all along, or it fixed itself at some time during those intervening months.) Which means we're back with surround sound!

No, I couldn't do a warranty return - Novo, the company that sold (and possibly made) them doesn't exist any more, and neither does the Rock Group, the local distributor.

While the Novo speaker suite was out, I also discovered how to turn Dolby Digital on in the Xbox. Now it's back up, I've started playing Halo through again - and the difference is astonishing.

Also, I've noticed that with the setting on, the "Dolby Digital" light on the Creative DDTS-100 decoder (which turns the signal into analog channels for the speaker set) stays switched on. I've also noticed that it doesn't do the same when I play a Dolby Digital DVD through the DVD player. The difference between the two is that the Xbox is connected to the decoder via a fibre optic cable while the DVD player uses a coaxial cable. Maybe I need to get another FO cable? They're not that expensive...

Thank You, Nan!

Once again, another week sans updates! So here's a nice big one for you, and thankfully, it is, as the kids say nowadays, all good.

The pressure is off for the time being at the Cairns Post. Our newest special publication (i.e. a separate magazine not printed as part of the regular paper), “eat. drink. tropics.” has just been published with great results, and it gives the ad reps a bit of a breather between now and Christmas.

Which will probably end next week; we’ve already been informing clients of our Christmas special ad packages, and there’ll be a rush on those soon.

As you’ve probably noticed when I announced I’d be buying RAM and the Serenity RPG and then decided to hold off, Vickie and I have been feeling a bit of a money squeeze lately. But Vickie called me at work on Friday and asked me whether I was sitting down. She’d received a letter from the solicitors that my aunt Trish works for. They’re handling Nan’s estate, and Nan had bequeathed me some money for me in her will! Without going into specifics, it's enough that we can now do some things that we’ve been meaning to for months. It's a bit of relief right when we needed it, and if Nan were alive, I'd hug her thoroughly!

Here's what we're planning:

  • Quite a few of you probably know about the ding above the back left wheel of our car (yeah, quit laughing). We’re going to see if a family friend can do a bit of panel-beating and get it straightened out before the wet season really hits. We’ve been very lucky with rust so far, but we don’t want to push it any further.
  • Ever since the replacement of our kitchen, we’ve needed a splash back along the wall above the counter tops. After discussing options, we’ve decided to go with tiles, and probably next weekend we’ll do some browsing of tile stores.
  • Cyclone season is on its way, and the met bureau is already forecasting four cyclones for our region. We want to get some quotes on trimming the larger, higher branches of our trees off, as well as replacing part of the covering on our entertainment area. Depending on costs, we might even spend a little on a gardener to get the rest of our garden in decent shape so that Vickie doesn’t have to do all of the really hard fixing-up work.
  • Since we moved up, all of our PC kit – both of our PCs, screens and speakers, our printer and phone – has run from a single dual-power-point. We’re going to see about getting a sparkie who’s done good work for us while we were renting the place out (and since we moved back in) to put another power point in the PC room. I’m contemplating another UPS, so that Vickie’s and my PCs aren’t drawing off the same unit (which they are at the moment) and a couple of nice, large surge-protection power boards, one for the PC room (for all the peripherals) and one for all the hefty electrical gear (TV, surround speakers, decoder, Xbox, DVD, VCR) in the living room. We're consindering replacing our current printer/scanner setup with a combo unit.
  • Also, a new battery charger and rechargeable AA batteries for the digital camera will come in handy.
  • Finally, I’m thinking of calling Mr. Antenna (or a local business in the same line) to have a look at our TV antenna set up and re-run a coax cable under the house for the TV in the bedroom. The existing one ran across the kitchen floor and down the hallway to the bedroom; we had to cut it when we put the vinyl flooring down in the kitchen/dining room.

On top of all that, of course, I started thinking of various geeky things that I’d love to spend some of that cash on. I figure Nan wouldn't mind if we had some fun with some of it!

  • That RAM. Specifically, two sticks of KingMax PC3200 512MB DDR SDRAM. I’ve asked Vickie’s son-in-law Paul to look into prices, and depending on how we go, I may even get four (two for me, two for Vickie). My thanks to those of you who told me you can get a serial port PCI card fairly cheaply, too. I’m also tempted to invest in a wireless Ethernet bridge and Xbox Live, not to mention a new sound card of some description - the SB Live! 5.1 I have is showing its age. The included drive-bay panel makes the Audigy 2 ZS Platinum a tempting option, but $279.95 is a bit steep - maybe Paul can do a better price on a package.
  • Military Simulations is doing a HUGE online sale until Saturday the 29th, with 20% off all Dungeons & Dragons stuff and 25% of all of their other RPGs and PC games! The wish list so far includes the three D&D Core Rulebooks (for if I ever run Eberron or as a resource for Horizon: Virtual), the Serenity RPG (which they probably still won’t have in yet, but I might as well give it a shot), Generation Gap (the GM’s guide for CyberGeneration), around $20 worth of dice (Dogs in the Vineyard needs a metric arseload of dice) and Winter Assualt, the previously mentioned expansion for Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War. I’m also tossing up whether to throw The Sorcerer’s Soul and/or another Paranoia supplement in there.
  • I was even tempted to go crazy and drop $90 for the Starship Troopers Miniatures Game - I mean, $30 off, that's damned tempting - but sanity prevailed. I have no idea what the odds of finding interested players up here are (even if I have both starting sides in one box), I left my terrain and paints in Sydney with Sim and Jason, and I don’t need minis for the Starship Troopers RPG that badly. I don't. Really. No.
  • Speaking of craziness I was also briefly tempted by a Palm Z22, but if a serial-port PCI card goes for one-sixth of that and means I can get my existing Palm III working - I might just wait.
  • Oh, yeah: Burnout Revenge. And the Roughnecks Complete Campaigns on DVD. Battlestar Galactica Season 1. Hell, half of my Amazon wish list! Even - oh, damn. Christmas is coming up, isn't it? I have to buy other people presents...

Now, that mobile phone plan thing: I’ve been thinking of switching back to Vodafone. Not just because they have a $49 cap plan identical to Optus', but because they also offer Vodafone Simply. Remember how I was talking about a no-frills phone? Vodafone Simply meets the criteria. No camera, no fancy extras, just a nice, simple, easy-to-use phone that looks pretty smart to boot.

October 15, 2005

Palm III/Firebird Synch-Up

While we're on the general topic of PDA synchronisation, does anyone know if it's possible to synch a Palm III (yes, yes, old tech, I know) with Mozilla's Firebird and/or Sunbird programs? If so, how would I go about doing it? I've not used my Palm III in over four years, out of frustration with its incompatibilities with Outlook. I'm wondering whether Mozilla is a bit more interoperable.

[UPDATE 15 Oct 05 9:00 PM:] Actually, don't worry about it; I discovered tonight that my PC doesn't have a serial port that I can connect my Palm III's HotSync cable to. I did a quick search, and most USB-to-serial port adapters cost around $60; also, it seems the software that governs them can be a bit finicky. So I'll leave it.

Do Rob's Thinking For Him: Mobile Plans

A few months ago, my AAPT mobile contract expired, and since then, I've been thinking on and off about renewing. A quick look at AAPT's current call plans, though, largely disabused me of that notion, though - either 15c or33c for 30 seconds is just too damned expensive. So, I'm now thinking of switching to another mobile phone service provider.

Therefore, my question to you, my readership, is: What plan or plans would you recommend, either through personal experience or friends who swear by it or them? I don't use my mobile phone that heavily - say, 5 minutes total talk time per week. If it makes any difference, our current home phone and Internet provider is Telstra.

Also, my existing Nokia 6210, a hand-me-down from Vickie, is also getting a bit battered and long-in-the-tooth, so I'm contemplating getting another phone in with the deal as well. Again, any recommendations you'd have would be welcome. If you know me, you probably know I'm not a heavy texter or funky-fone-feature-userer, so I really don't need MMS or anything like. If it's possible to get a phone without a camera nowadays, I'd be in for it. The ability to upload .wav or other media files for use as phunky ringz would be nice; I have some good TARDIS sound files I'd love to use as tones when sending and receiving SMSes.

A wish-list feature would be the ability to use it as a mini-PDA; i.e. able to synchronise with my Mozilla Thunderbird address book (and, if remotely possible, my Sunbird calendar) for contact, appointment and reminder management.

As for overall cost, I'd be willing to spend, oh, $50 tops on a new phone, depending on any connection/switching fees.

Vickie's daughter Deena has recommended Optus' $49 Cap plus Push To Talk plan, especially with its $230 worth of call time per month. Does anyone else use it? If so, what do you think?

[UPDATE 16 Oct 05 12:35 PM:] That comment about 15 or 33c per 30 seonds being too damned expensive looks as though it was a bit premature; based on some investigation since then, 15c/30sec seems like a pretty good rate. So, those of you who were more familiar with mobile rates than I, I hope you got a good laugh out of my presumption!

October 14, 2005

Numa numa iei, Numa GOD DAMN IT!!!

I blame Vickie. Thanks to her and Gary Brolsma, I can't get that fucking tune out of my head!

No idea what I'm talking about? Well, I give you two ways of finding out:

  1. The original, compete with Euro prettyboys dancing on the wing of a plane.
  2. The webcam clip which became an Internet meme.

You do know what I'm talking about? I pity you. You've been stuck with it for longer than I have.

In all honesty, Gary looks as though he's having more fun than O-Zone. Of course, that may not be the case now.

Either way, I feel the need to share the pain.

October 13, 2005

Shitty Mornings

Thids morning and the last couple of mornings, I've been waking up at around five o'clock, an hour and a half before the alarm's meant to actually ring (well, play a local FM radio station), and when I've stepped out into the hallway, I've been assailed by this awful smell. We're still keeping Zelda in the living room at the moment, and when I walk down into it - well, let's just say the poor girl's got something of a bowel problem at the moment. It got especially bad this morning, so much so that we had to put our two carpets out on the clothesline. I wound up spending about half an hour cleaning and mopping up, and by the time I was done, it was still before six.

On top of that, I must have done something more than just catch my toe under the edge of one of the carpets last weekend, because my left ankle has been steadily giving me more grief over the past few days. I called in sick today and have been trying to stay off of my left foot as much as possible, but that didn't stop us from taking poor Zel to the vet for a check this morning.

Thankfully, it seems as though the problem wasn't caused by threading from a towel or one of the other ad hoc chew toys we've given her to pull apart lately getting tangled up in there. The vet did find signs of animal hair - not dog hair - in her sample, so we're wondering whether she got a mouse sometime. (We have one or two around about, and we finally bought some mousetraps today; we're a little bit worried that they're having a go at the insulation on the back of the fridge.) The vet gave us a treatment to use, and told us that Zelda is to be nil-by-mouth for the rest of the day.

So the three of us are having a quiet day at home today. Vickie and I are a little bit buggered from all the early starts, and Zelda's doing her usual couch potato act (just not on the couch).

October 12, 2005

Bats.

If you live in any metropolitan area in Australia, you probably hear about how local bat populations are decreasing in numbers due to the encroachment of the urban sprawl, etcetera.

Have you ever wondered where all those bats go?

If so, I have the solution to your pondering:

Like Vickie and I, they moved to Cairns.

Almost every dusk over the past week, huge, and I mean HUGE flocks of bats go flying over Gordonvale, from the mountains to the East to the valley that leads up toward the Atherton Tablelands. It's an airborne RIVER of bats, I'm telling you, and it just keeps coming! You don't notice when it stops, because it's already too dark to see the little blighters anyway!

It is quite probably the most incredible thing I have seen since I moved up here! The only thing that comes close is the sheer volume of rainbow lorikeets in and around Cairns proper. (There's a whole lot of Lesser Varicoloured Shittybird around the joint.)

If the bats are airborne again tomorrow night, I'll get the damned camera out.

Searching for Serenity

Well, I gave MilSims a quick call today; they're all out of copies of the Serenity RPG, and not expecting any more for a few weeks.

So I'm going to call a few RPG stores in Sydney and see if they have a copy - if so, I've recruited my man Gav to pick one up for me and mail it up. (Yes, I'm paying for the lot - Gavin has depressingly little I can blackmail him on.)

[UPDATE 13 Oct 05 1:30PM] As it turns out, we've had an electricity bill and, of course, Zelda's vet expenses sneak up on us, so I'm leaving the Serenity RPG until later - considering that Christmas is coming up, I might even wait until next year sometime.

It's a bugger, as Salidar mentioned that Games Paradise in Sydney has a few copies in (I called them earlier this morning, and they confirmed that). Still, they're selling its copies for $79.95 each, around $14 less than what MilSims is selling its copies for. So waiting's not such a bad idea right now.

October 08, 2005

Re-Listing Delta Green Novels

Well, putting Feng Shui up for auction wound u being a little harder than I thought it was going to be. So instead, I'm trying my luck again with my Call of Cthulhu / Delta Green novel collection. I've changed the description around a bit, so hopefully it'll be more attractive to people not already familiar with the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game or Delta Green.

Again, please have a look, and if you know someone who might be interested, please let them know. Please be aware that all proceeds from this auction will go toward the Get Rob A Copy Of The Serenity Roleplaying Game And Some More Dice Fund, so your money will be spent in a good cause, not to mention helping the continued existence of probably the best SF franchise to be born in the last ten years!

[UPDATE 9 October 05 9:10 AM:] Actually, folks, stop worrying; a gentleman in the UK met my Buy Now price! I'll be popping the books out to him in the morning!

So Serenity RPG, here I come!

On Thursday, anyway. Once the payment comes through from PayPal and my wages are paid.

Speaking of Serenity...

So yeah, Vickie and I went and saw the Big Damn Movie on Thursday night, for her birthday.

Wow.

And, Oof.

And, bring on the next one!

Incoming Upgrade

Well, a nice bidder on eBay met my asking price of $200 for the NetRunner cards. I was hoping to get a bit more - especially as the number of people watching the auction went from 3 to 5 to 9 to 12 to 14 and, at one point, all the way up to 15 before dropping back to 14 and holding there until the end of the auction, but no one else put a bid down.

I suppose having the auction end at half past midnight on Sunday didn't help, but still.

So, I've got a little spare cash. A lot of it's going on some fresh veg and seafood this week, but after next pay I'm planning on upgrading my PC from 512MB to 1GB of RAM, plus maybe Winter Assault. (Is anyone else still playing Dawn of War?)

I'm thinking of auctioning off my Feng Shui books to pay for the Serenity RPG and some more dice. (Boy, does Dogs in the Vineyard need lots of dice...)

[UPDATE 13 Oct 05 1:30PM] As it turns out, we've had an electricity bill and, of course, Zelda's vet expenses sneak up on us, so I'm leaving the RAM upgrade for a week or two. I do want to get it done soon, though, as the RAM in my PC is on loan from Vickie's son-in-law, Paul, and I've had it for a few months now.

October 07, 2005

Too Heartbreakingly True

From the "Overly Honest RPG Book Covers" thread on RPGnet:

Serenity RPG Cover: Honest

October 02, 2005

Dogs in the Voice Chat

We were all keyed up to play some Primetime Adventures tonight, when two things happned. The first was a sudden and serious lack of confidence in the idea we'd come up with on my part; I was trying to come up with a big Pilot Episode Problem that three actors could be expected to deal with, and... well, I explain it all fairly well here.

Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately) Seth had some nasty Internet connection problems, so not only was his Ventrilo server unavailable, but he couldn't even hook up for chat via Skype! We've postponed the sessionf or another couple of weeks, which hopefully will give us some breathing room to rethink the Pitch a bit (if required).

But, as Vickie and I had a stable (well, fairly stable; it did drop out for a few minutes later on) Skype connection with Gav, and we had some time, I suggested we play a little Dogs in the Vineyard. When I explained the premise, I got, rather surprisingly in fact, a "This sounds interesting!" from both Gav and Vickie. Now, let me just say that Vickie has rarely if ever been down on an idea for a game. But this was the first time I can remember that it took only a few minutes to get her that seriously interested.

We spent the evening creating characters. In Dogs in the Vineyard, every playrer charcter is one of God's Watchdogs, sort of a roving lawman of the Faith (itself based generally on Mormonism). The Dogs travel from Branch of the Faith (town) to Branch, doing general duties like delivering the mail, blessing the newborn and officiating marriages, but what they're really there to do is root out sin and give judgment, even if said judgment is blowing the brains of a sinner out in the middle of a Branch's main street.

Vickie came up with Sister Sarah, an adopted Mountain Folk who had been brought up the hard way by a strict Faithful family. Her initiation stakes were, "I hope I can apply Scripture to someone's real problems," which she won by escalating from Talking to Physical (a big hug given to a very drunk old man who'd lost both of his children to wasting disease) and running me out of dice. I have to say that Vickie was also very keen on the dice mechanic of Seeing and Raising, probably the first RPG rules she's ever really grasped! That, as far as I'm concerned, is a damned good sign!

Gavin's character was Brother Gabriel, a well-balanced young Dog who (if Gav's initial suggestion of "I kope I kept my faith intact" as stakes for his initiation was any hint) will probably hit some spiritual speedbumps later on. As losing one's faith would make oen inelegible to be a Dog, I talked Gav down from his stakes; we agreed to "I hope I take the right option over the easy one," which I Gave on (I had some really nasty dice left, but could see Gav was having a bit of a tough time with it). A little bit of creativity with Skype's text-chat allowed us to compare Sees and Raises with the dice we had left, although I think I need to put some rules around that just to make sure we know exactly what we're showing each other.

As it was around eleven, we called it a night, but sometime in the next few days I'm going to flesh out the Branch of the Faith named Anvil Hill; with any luck, I should be able to put Gav and Vickie through it before week's end!

October 01, 2005

OpenID and TypeKey

I'd noticed this "OpenID" thing suddenly appearing on LiveJournal comment pages a few weeks ago. It was some sort of identity-verifying service for commenting, but as it seemed I might need yet another user-ID and password to get it to work (and I have more than enough of those already), I decided not to bother.

A little more investigation ths morning showed that it was much simpler: a URL-verification system for commenting that only needs the URL in question to link back to an OpenID server - which is intended to be open source freeware. Six Apart have set one up as part of their TypeKey service (which as an MT user I've signed up for), so it means I can my website as an LJ comment user-ID instead of just leaving anonymous comments!