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February 23, 2007

Slogging Uphill

The past few days haven’t been really bad or anything, but I’m still wishing that the universe would stop trying to teach us something for a little while.

It’s been raining pretty heavily up this way lately. I’m not sure why I mention it, as the rain really hasn’t been giving us much trouble, but it’s been there.

We’ve not had much luck putting some cash aside for a new power supply for my PC. We’re already behind on saving for quite a few bills, and the rates – five hundred or so dollars of them – are due this coming Thursday. We can cover them, but we’ll be short a bit for a while, and we’re already overdue on heartworm medicine for our dogs.

On top of that, the car is just about due for its 60,000 Km service – and on top of that, the ABS warning light suddenly switched itself on on Tuesday morning. According to the user’s manual, the brakes themselves are till fine, but the system that stops the wheels from locking up when you put the pedal to the floor is no longer working. I’ve called the local Ford dealer, but we won’t have any money to do anything seriously about it until this time next month.

I tried getting together with my Burning Empires group on Wednesday to finish off World Burning and get the first few stages of Character Burning – which must be done as a group – out of the way. Unfortunately, Scott was a no-show; his mobile has been off since we got together last weekend and we had no other way of reaching him. Tracey, Patrick and I managed to get some stuff nailed down, but we’re still waiting on Scott before we can go any further.

Still, let me not give you the impression that all is frustrated. I’m meeting with the manager of our local Bendigo Bank on Monday about an extension on our loan; we want enough to pay off both our credit cards, which are both maxed out (I’ll be cancelling mine once it’s paid off, after which I’ll be closing our Credit Union joint account; we’ve been using the Bendigo for the last year), plus maybe a grand to bring car, PC and vet bills back up to speed and get a couple more things done around the house. Brook's rent has also been a big help in keeping us in groceries.

February 17, 2007

Burning Empires: Who Got Game?

I got game!

Post-game dissection of GM technique here. Also, mostly-burned world for new campaign here.

February 13, 2007

Feeling Very Milli Vanilli

Well, so much for the movie. As soon as we hit the Bruce Highway the rain hit us, and heavily. I started slowing down to ten, then fifteen kph below the speed limit so that I could have some confidence that my tyres were actually touching the road; even then I wasn't trusting that road conditions would hold to Cairns. After a quick discussion with Vickie, who made the point that we could well get cut off from home while we were at the cinema, I took the first turn-off leading back toward Gordonvale proper.

So we missed out an a free, probably very fun movie. I know what I'll do: Blame it on the rain.

Downs and Ups

As you might’ve gathered over the last few posts, it’s been a little hard going at Riverstone Road since the New Year. Christmas was immediately followed by a spate of birthdays, so what little post-Xmas cash we had was rapidly drained by even more presents. The gamers’ get-togethers over the past couple of months went ahead, but Vickie couldn’t make the Janaury one due to illness and we both had to bow out of the February one due to the aforementioned money squeeze – I wound up owing one of my workmates twenty dollars for the farewell lunch thrown for another of my colleagues, and I still owe Gav $15 for some comics I asked him to scrounge up for me.

Let’s not by any means forget Vickie, who had that horrid double-attack of neuralgia and toothache. The auction of my Heavy Gear books on eBay in order to cover some dental surgery managed to attract several watchers but no buyers. Thankfully, both of Vickie's pains eased – leading us to think that the toothache was just another symptom of the neuralgia – but with the heat over the last couple of days, Vickie’s getting pains around her abdomen. My poor love has no luck sometimes!

Vickie’s not the only one with heat-related ailments. As previously reported, our computers have been suffering under the heat and mine has committed suicide. So, yet more money.

Finally, Brook, who arrived in town last Tuesday evening, had her first day of school yesterday and is finding it pretty dull.

Enough whingeing. What about the good stuff?

Well, starting the good stuff where I finished whingeing, Brook is up here and settling in well. She’s helping me walk Zelda and Ziggy of a morning, which means they’re nice and quiet for Vickie during the day. (I’m half-dreading having to walk them on my own once Brook moves to Karl and Jodie’s.) Plus, she’s managed to land a job; her first shift at the Caltex across the road is this evening!

For seconds, I got a phone call from Anita at the Mentoring Scheme. They’ve picked out a kid for me to mentor; I’ll be meeting him and his family this coming Tuesday night!

For thirds, although we couldn’t make it to last Saturday’s gamers’ get-together, I was glad to see that a game came out of it! Simon’s organising him some MegaTraveller and he already has a few people signed up. I’ll have to see about getting in on it!

Oh, and finally, just when I was worried about a Valentine’s Day present, Amy (the co-worker whom I owed $20) just handed me an Admit Two pass to a screening of the new Hugh Grant chick-flick Music & Lyrics tonight, so I’m dragging Vickie out to see it!

Goodness abounds!

My PC is on FIRE!

Well, it nearly was. Very nearly. You know that freezing problem I mentioned in that last post about the cooling fans I was buying? It didn't go away after I installed them. Instead, it started happening within five minutes of starting or resetting my PC. Every time. I thought it may have been the hard drive for a while, but I decided on Saturday to take my PC apart, clean the contacts and put it back together again - whereupon I discovered the burn marks on the earth contacts of my power supply. I immediately unscrewed it from the case, but I don't have another one of comparable wattage (or greater, as I'm pretty sure the burning was due to an underpowered system) to replace it - so until next pay, my PC is uttterly inactive.

It's great timing, too; on top of all the other expenses we've had lately, I'll need to shell out another $150. The original PSU was a 460-Watt model and I'd like to go up to 550 Watts to be safe, but they're a little on the expensive side. Still, there is a 560W PSU going for $130...

In the meantime, both Vickie's and Brook's PCs have been complaining in the very intense heat we've had up here in the past couple of days, so much so that Vickie's leaving hers off during the day. Yes, that new heatsink and rear case fan have been installed in Vickie's PC. I think that the current heat is simply asking too much of almost any system shy of a water-cooled one, and the computer room and Brook's room have always been the best rooms in the house for retaining heat.

Oh, speaking of computer power supplies, did you know that there is now a one kiloWatt PSU? Seriously, how much hardware would you have in your box in order to require that much power? It's got a cooling fan bigger than the ones in my case! Jeez, you wouldn't want anything else in your house switched on in case you blew all the fuses...

February 04, 2007

Final PC Quibbles

On a mentoring-unrelated note, we've had a little more trouble with our PCs over the last couple of days. The new fans went into our cases with little trouble, and when I transfer the guts of Karl's PC into his new case he'll have two 8cm blue LED fans, one on the side panel and one on the rear chassis for extraction. However, Vickie's Microsoft Natural keyboard, bought barely six months ago, started not responding to the "Favourite 1" key - then the "X" key - then the "P" key. I tried putting it on my PC, but to no avail. I'm going to truck it back into Harvey Norman sometime this week and see whether they can replace it.

Then my PC, which seemed to be running hotter than it was before I installed the extra 12cm fan - froze, then blue-screened last night. I had a look at the case - and wondered why there didn't seem to be much air coming out of the rear of it. Removal of the side-panel showed the cause - I'd put the new fan in back-to-front, so that it was sucking air (including hot air from the power supply's extraction fans) back into the case. A quick spin of the screw-gun saw the problem fixed, and now my PC case is very cool, literally and figuratively - the larger fan means a larger light, which means I can see my internal components through the side panel now!

Trainers and Coaches

A couple of links from the mentor training Vickie and I underwent over the last couple of days:

  • Jeanette Harvey, our principal trainer for the whole course. She was warm, welcoming, fantastically focused and kept the whole group endeavour ticking over at a good, smooth pace. I'm sure she'd make a brilliant game master.
  • Megan Bayliss, who spoke to us for an hour about the tasks of adolescence - where a person needs to be at the end of it and how they get there - and how to listen actively. Megan's personal web log focuses on child support but also touches on broader community affairs.

Mentor Training

A few hours ago, Vickie and I got home from our second day of mentor training with the Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme. Frankly, I think it’s the most honest-to-God challenging and exhausting training I’ve ever done, and for all the right reasons. I’ve read somewhere that the human brain actually uses no less than forty percent of the energy that the human body generates to power itself, and after this weekend I fully believe it; even though we didn’t do anything physically strenuous, Vickie and I were both knackered, last night and tonight.

I won’t go into too great a detail about the minutiae of the training course, but I will say that the most surprising thing was how much I learned about myself. The main goal of the mentoring course isn’t just to teach you techniques for communicating with your mentee, it’s about getting straight with yourself so that you can clear your junk out of the way when your mentee tries to communicate with you. Ladies and gentlemen, readers all, let me tell you that that can be a pretty scary thing.

Most of the training involved looking honestly at our own personal reactions to the sorts of problems that young people have, how we can deal with “on-the-spot” situations, where the personal borders of ourselves and our mentees are likely to lie and how to respect and manage them. That meant that all eighteen of we trainees had to be willing to actually put our reactions, however good, bad or even ugly, into words and air them with the rest of the group and the trainer, and trust that everyone will listen and make positive suggestions instead of condemning.

What made it work was the mindset that we all approached it with. I think it helped that we eighteen were all volunteers; we hadn’t applied for this program because it was a way to make some extra cash (or even as a primary source of income); we applied because we thought, for whatever reason, that befriending a young person with the aim of helping that person to handle life as best he or she can was a worthwhile use of our free time. There’s something in that spirit that makes you – that made me – willing to trust these people whom I’d mostly never met before with stuff that I normally wouldn’t share with anybody outside of Vickie.

The end goal was to get us able to encourage our mentees to trust themselves enough to stand on their own two feet and face life, no matter what it throws at them – because, really, the only way to show another person how to do that is to already be doing it yourself, or, at least, be making progress toward it. It required a good, honest look at yourself, and Vickie and I were quite surprised by the radical changes in some of our fellow trainees in the matter of two days. We both sure as heck learned some things about ourselves.

A side effect of the training, though, was that we made sixteen new friends whom we’d make a serious effort to get together with on a regular basis. There was already talk of a monthly gathering at lunch break today, and after training finished at three PM, half the group made our way to Brothers Leagues Club to chat. It wasn’t until almost six o’clock that the final four of us upped and left, and the time simply flew by.