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March 30, 2007

This Post Brought To You By The Colour Blue

That's right, folks; I'm typing this at you via my very own PC! I'm back up and running again, and all it cost was $200! On top of that, my PC is now glowing more blue than ever! How is my PC blue? Let me count the ways...

  • The original 12cm air intake fan on the front of the case, which glows blue.
  • The additional 12cm air extraction fan I installed on the rear of the case, which glows blue.
  • The 12cm air intake fan on my new CoolerMaster RealPower 550-Watt power supply unit, which glows blue.
  • The power supply monitor panel nested in my case's 3.5" drive bay, which glows blue.
  • ... and, er, the 12" cold cathode tube I bought with the PSU and mounted on the floor of my case (look, it was fifteen bucks, and I was buying the PSU from PC Case Gear anyway, so I thouht, hey, why not). Which. You know. Glows blue.

March 28, 2007

Give My Library More Good SF

I've been spending a bit of time at the Cairns Library lately, especially since discovering that it's actually rather well-stocked with good SF. Most recently, I've been gorging on the work of David Weber. He is awesome. My carnal lust for this guy knows no bounds. He is a master of mixing stories of warfare, with tactics, strategy, hardware and politicking, in with very enjoyable human stories. I got into him through his stories set in the universe created by Keith Laumer, the universe of the Bolos. In my opinion, of the many authors who’ve tilted at the Bolo windmill, his work has been the best.

As a side-note, it’s my firm opinion that the Bolo stories are the best anti-Terminator fiction I’ve ever read. You know what I’m talking about, right? All those thrilling tales about Man’s hubris and how his technological children will strike him down, from Big Arnie to the new Battlestar Galactica? Well, the Bolo stories could well be about that, given that Bolos are massive, self-aware tanks built to fight Man’s wars – except, in pretty much every case, it’s the Bolos, and the humans who command them, who teach Humanity about loyalty, duty and sacrifice.

At the moment, I’m making my way through two series: Weber’s Honor Harrington novels, about a female, far-future, spacegoing Horatio Hornblower, and the March novels written with John Ringo (who co-wrote the Bolo novel The Road to Damascus with Linda Evans), about a troop of Marines marooned on a hostile planet with the foppish prince they’re tasked with protecting. I’m waiting on the Cairns Library to get the third novel, March to the Stars, in.

Unfortunately, the library is missing some of the Honor Harrington novels, including the third in the series, and after reading one and two I don’t really want to “skip ahead”. So, do any of you have, or know someone who has, copies of the novels The Short Victorious War, Honor Among Enemies and Ashes of Victory that they’re willing to part with? I’ll cover the cost of postage, and once I’m done with them they’ll go to the library.

Anyway, while I’m waiting, I’m also making my way through Eisenhorn, a collection of Dan Abnett’s novels and short stories set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, about an Imperial Inquisitor and his retinue. I’d heard good things about Abnett, but I was rather turned off of Warhammer 40,000 fiction by Ian Watson’s grim and gruesome Space Marine. Abnett has managed to restore my interest in the universe; I’m starting to see how the upcoming Warhammer 40,000 RPG could actually be interesting and fun.

March 27, 2007

The Week That Was: March 2007

The new loan I mentioned a couple of posts ago came though, so we spent around a grand and a half on Sunday. First, we dashed off to the annual Home & Lifestyle Show, where we bought a new vacuum cleaner and a back massager (which I think Vickie will find invaluable). After that, we nipped over to Bunnings where we got a petrol-powered whipper-snipper, some new towel rails for the bathroom and down-piping for the gutters on our entertainment area. On that last, it looks as though I’ll be doing some digging fairly soon; we want to try and re-run our guttering from the backyard to the road. It’s already cracked in at least two places.

Saturday’s barbecue was a fizzle, unfortunately. My own fault; I gave most of our invitees less than a week’s notice, which isn’t exactly conducive to attendance. We think we’ll try and hook up with our friends for lunches in the next few weeks. We’re starting with a couple whom I met on the bus a couple of weeks ago (when the car was in for service). David and Mahala are a pretty cool pair who actually live in Gordonvale, and they invited us over for a cuppa this coming Sunday. After that we’re tripping down to Mission Beach on Easter Sunday to meet Christine and Graham, and we want to try and hook up with a couple of other couples Bruce and Antigone and Patrick and Lyn, once Easter is out of the way.

On Wednesday, Vickie and I headed over to the Flexible Learning Centre for a Cairns Youth Mentoring Scheme celebration. Several mentor-mentee pairings had reached the end of their six-month mentoring period; they presented the audience with the projects they’d been working on. My mentee couldn’t come, as his family’s getting ready for a wedding. Still, we got to catch up with some of the folks from our training class.

Finally, last Tuesday I dashed off to Edge Hill to join a game of indoor soccer that some folks from work have organised. We’re part of a league and have our first ranked match-up this evening. Indoor soccer is a very exhausting sport. You play on an area slightly larger than a tennis court, which means lots of quick, short sprints. The pitch is surrounded by netting, so there’s no such thing as putting the ball over the line – although the ball isn’t allowed to go above shoulder-height (or chest-height, if it’s a mixed or female team). After four ten-minute quarters last week, I was pretty much buggered! Ah, well; it’s helping me get fit!

March 18, 2007

Axe The Gaming; Let's Just Hang Out

Vickie pointed something very interesting out to me earlier on. Every time I try and orginse a meeting with the folks whom I've met through a common interest in the roleplaying game hobby, it's always gotta be about the hobby. It's either one of the gaming get-togethers or an actual game session. And you know what? Once again, she's right. Outside of birthday parties I've not once organised a "let's hang out" get-together for any of my gaming friends.

The only reason I can come up with that fits with how I've been acting and my mindset at those times is because I've simply been fixated on gaming. The thought of just hanging out with these people hadn't really crossed my mind. It's odd, because I've been readng a lot lately about how the best gaming comes from gaming with friends and roleplaying as a typical, socially integrated practice and agreeing with what I'm reading, but somehow I've avoided comparing the content of those articles to my personal approach to the hobby. I'm trying too damn hard to get a game going; I'm so invested in my self-identity as a gamer that my lack of actual, you know, gaming is driving me up the wall!

The best thing to do about that, I think, is to set it aside for a while and do something else social. As such, I've cancelled my plan to get some fellow gamers together this coming Saturday and hash out campaign concepts for Heavy Gear. Instead, I'm going to try and get as many friends, including gaming friends, as I can over our place on the afternoon/evening of Saturday, March 24th for a barbecue. If interesting, involving discussion happens, fantastic; if it happens to involve the RPG hobby, gravy, but no big deal if it doesn't.

I'd just like to end this post by acknowledging something I don't realise enough - the amount of work Vickie does in helping me stay sane and stable. It's not easy, especially as I tend to over-react and clam up whenever I get criticised, no metter how constructively. But she keeps at it, and occasionally, she gets results! :-)

March 15, 2007

Crime Must Be Stopped - No Matter What The Cost

When I bought the Collector's Edition re-release of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds a year or so ago, I remeber being very surprised to discover that the most well-known song from that album - "Forever Autumn," performed by Justin Hayward - actually started life as a jingle that Jeff Wayne wrote for a Lego commercial. It was originally given lyrics by Paul Vigrass and Gary Osbourne after the jingle became so popular that people wrote in, asking whether there was any more of it (the out-takes CDs even feature the original jingle and the Vigrass & Osbourne single). As Jeff Wayne noted in the making-of DVD that came with the set, he was trying to write a tune like "Forever Autumn" for that moment in the Musical, but eventually gave up and used that tune instead (why not? It's a perfect fit).

In a curious parallel, I was reading a recent interview with Eighties power-rocker Stan Bush, a man beloved by Transformers fans because of his tunes "Dare" and "The Touch", which appeared in the Transformers animated movie. In the interview, he relates that:

We originally wrote "The Touch" for a Sylvester Stalone movie called Cobra, but the record company got the songs in "Transformers: The Movie" instead.

So all this time, when we thought Stan was singing about Optimus Prime, it was really Sly Stallone who had the "mighty hands of steel"?

I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to that tune in quite the same way again... :-D

March 09, 2007

The Local Gamers' Curse

You know, there must be a curse of some kind on Cairns gaming. When I called Vickie earlier this morning about something else, she mentioned an e-mail sent by Cristel, Simon's missus and fellow gamer. Turns out poor Simon's been felled by a stomach bug, quite possibly similar to the one that knocked me about last week (not that I've been within a kilometre of their place for a month or two). So no MegaTraveller tomorrow.

Seriously, did some gamer brutally murder some other gamer's PC, steal the character sheet and bury it in an unhallowed grave at some point? Because any concerted effort to get a semi-stable regular game going keeps getting flushed down the tubes.

Ah, well. At least it'll give Vickie and I the chance to get some shopping and yard-work out of the way.

Action! Thrills! Stunts! Modifiers!

Here's the latest DM of the Rings, with a very, very true commentary on RPG combats.

If there's one thing I always worry about as a GM, it's making combats interesting, and it's probably my prime worry with the somewhat stat-heavy tactical combat system in Heavy Gear. I have some ideas about that, though, which I will detail later.

March 08, 2007

Priorities and Scheduling

Now that I’m past yesterday’s minor bout of depression, let me have a look at what’s on my plate at the moment and how I want to organise it:

  • First and foremost, as always, is Vickie. Our recent lack of readies means we’ve not been getting out much. This weekend we’re turning that around by going out to see Wild Hogs, as I mentioned. I don’t want that trip to be a flash in the pan, though, and after going over our income and budget again, we’ll be able to afford to go out more often. We have some friends who we’ve not seen in a little while, so it’s about time we made some phone calls.

My other priorities are, in no particular order:

  • Our home. After today’s rain I’m pretty sure I’m going to be mowing the lawn again this weekend, or at least whipper-snippering. Vickie also wants to get out and weed the back-end of our yard, and I want to get stuck into the weeding as well. Okay, okay, you can stop laughing, maybe “want” is too strong a word, but you get my drift; the garden needs care, and I need to do my share of it. Then there are the other renovations that remain to be done, namely the bedrooms and the computer room (we want to put new shelves and a single desk for our PCs in). Before we start those, we need that loan extension I wrote about in a prior post.
  • The car. I’ve got her booked in for her 60,000Km service on Thursday the 15th, and I still need to organise the check up of her antilock braking system with Trinity Ford – which is also reliant on that loan. On top of those, I want to set up a serious maintenance routine, doing all the weekly things I’ve been neglecting for – well, really, for two years. Most of the time, I get home from work and don’t even think about the car until the next day. That must change.
  • My mentee. We’ve decided that learning to fish is a good use of our two-hours-per-fortnight. We get together next on Saturday the 17th, but the time is dependent on local tides, so I don’t really want to queue anything up on mentor days unless it’s in the evening.
  • My PC. I’ve been doing okay without it, mainly by borrrowing Vickie’s and Brook’s PCs when they’re not using them. Still, I want it fixed up; I’m still keen on some Dark Crusade with the lads in Sydney, and my mentee recently bought the game as well. As it stands, there’s no pressing need for me to have my PC back before the car’s service; quite possibly it can wait until early April.
  • Gaming. This one I intentionally left until last because I’m usually thinking about it most of the time. Now I’m looking at it as one of the parts of my life, not the dominant portion. Simon’s MegaTraveller game is on Saturday, Tracey’s made a Savage Worlds campaign pitch, Burning Empires has just gone on hold until I can get another player and I really want to do something with Vickie, who wants to do Heavy Gear. I’d like to be part of a game session at least once a month, and the selfish part of me wants to run a bi-weekly game. Simon’s planning MegaTraveller as a monthly game, and Vickie would prefer Heavy Gear no more frequently than once a month herself.

Let me prove the point about how much I think about gaming by developing a gaming schedule. MegaTraveller and Heavy Gear are pretty safely weekends only. Thus every weekend would alternate – for me, anyway – between gaming and mentoring; I’d be driving into Cairns three weekends out of four. I’d only really be able to run Burning Empires on a weeknight; in terms of the game, that wouldn’t necessarily be a deal-breaker (a two-hour session would see the start and completion of one manoeuvre) but there are two problems: (a) the person I wanted to bring in to fill the third player's seat is only available on Saturdays, and (b) it's even more time away from Vickie.

I’m also not fond of the idea of trying to cram two days of gaming into one weekend. Okay, I am fond of the idea, but I recognise that it's not sensible; there’s simply too much other stuff that I should be getting done instead. I might be able to get some of it out of the way of a weeknight, but I’ll definitely see how everything shakes out before I start making any gaming plans outside of MegaTraveller and Heavy Gear. Hell, I'm way overdue to be organising the March gamers' get-together! I think it might have to wait until April; we're having trouble finding a kid-friendly venue.

March 07, 2007

On The Back-Burner

Remember that Burning Empires campaign some friends and I were getting set to run? Unfortunately, one told me tonight that the game wasn't quite his cup of tea, and has decided to step away.

Although I could try and rope in another player, I have quite a bit on my plate at the moment: mentoring, trying to organise an extension on our home loan, committing to play in Simon's MegaTraveller game, making sure I actually work to keep the house we live in clean and well-maintained. This last I tend to neglect when I get a bee in my bonnet about a game; in fact, I have been neglecting it in my mania for Burning Empires. I might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but for the moment at least I want to try and get my life a bit better organised and disciplined.

Most importantly, I've also been neglecting Vickie lately. Admittedly, we haven't had too much cash of late to go out and enjoy ourselves with but - well, let me present a case in point to explain: Tonight, on my way home, I called Vickie about Simon's first session of MegaTraveller this coming Saturday. Vickie reminded me that I'd asked her out to see Wild Hogs (the John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy comedy) on Saturday evening. Although she assured me that we could go on Sunday, that outing was the first thing I should have had on my mind. Thankfully, Simon's game is starting nice and early, so I can get both in - although that means leaving Vickie to tackle a garden full of weeds on her own.

The neglect extends to gaming. I've mentioned wanting to run something for Vickie a few times, but between Burning Empires and signing on for campaigns that Vickie's not interested in, I've managed to load my gaming slate without doing anything for her. We talked a bit more tonight, and although I know Vickie's interested in Dogs in the Vineyard, it's a new game for her. What Vickie really wants to play is the one game she had a good time in - Heavy Gear.

So, once I've got everything else bedded down, that's what I'll organise.

March 04, 2007

The DM Of The Rings

Here's another linky by way of The Gavmeister (yes, I know, "Gavmeister" means "master of Gav", and he is Gav, but my old school motto was "vincit qui se vincit" which translates to "he conquers who conquers himself", so it's my way of saying don't mess with Gavin or he'll, you know, go all conquest on yo' ass).

Anyway, it's a sorta-webcomic, using screengrabs from the Lord of the Rings films as individual frames. It's also a wonderful satire of the type of social interactions that arise whenever a group of geeks sit down around a table and play Dungeons & Dragons. It starts here, but frankly, episode number thirty-seven (and it's just caught up with the end of the first film) is the best summary of why many find the Grandfather of Roleplaying Games pretty damned frustrating.

March 02, 2007

Something In The Water

It must be, I'm sure of it. This ache in my gut that I've had for a week gets worse whenever I send a glass of water down to clear things up. I've seen the doctor, who say's it's something viral, with an outside chance of it being giardia. Anyway, I've spent Monday, yesterday and half of today off work; the two and a half days I was there weren't particularly fun.

I've got my first meeting with my mentee tomorrow, and after a day of rest (occupied mainly with Burnout 3) I should be okay for it. I can't really tell you how it goes afterward, as part of the mentoring arrangement is an agreement to privacy - I can't even tell Vickie. Speaking of my darling, she's finally received her blue card in the mail, so with any luck she'll get a call from CYMS about a potential mentee soon.

With any luck, Tracey, Patrick, Scott and I will be getting together on Wednesday night to get some more prep done for Burning Empires. Poor Scott, it turns out, was missing the week before last due to a sudden, extended trip to the hospital!

Oh, and here's something that happened in the last week. When Vickie and I originally told Brook that I was going to be dragging Karl off to see Transformers around my birthday (according to the Birch Carroll & Coyle website it opens here a couple of days before the US - so do we see it on opening night or wait nine days for my actual birthday? Agonising decisions...), Brook was amusedly dismissive. Then, about a week ago, I was looking at the movie website again and decided to play the trailers ('cos I can't get enough). Vickie and Brook walked into the computer room in the middle of a conversation, and Brook decided to check what I was watching out. From memory, her reaction was something along the lines of, "THAT'S Transformers?" I said words to the effect of, "Yeah! So you want to see it now?" She expressed an opinion similar to, "Oh yeah! I thought it was going to be a kids' movie."

Now, not long afterwards, my Voyager-Class Optimus Prime was pointed out to Brook, who had a go at transforming him (he was in truck mode at the time). Anyway, I pulled up Hasbro's Transformers toy site and went to the page with the info on the movie toys that were at the International Toy Fair. I showed her the Leader-Class Optimus Prime (US$40, maybe I can scrape it together...), but here eye was caught by no less than (if you've not opened that last link yet, do so and scroll to the bottom) Ultimate Bumblebee. I can see why; just look at those pictures. And that list of features. (Try not to look at the price.) She was very insistent that I buy one. (Seriously, try not to look at the price.)

You know, she might be just a step-granddaughter, but I think we must be related somehow. Or maybe it's just something in the water.