Nov 052014

Oh right, hello there.

Some snippets, in no particular order.

I’m 30 now. I don’t generally pay much attention to age, getting older, and so on. So it is with the beginning of my fourth decade. 25 was the last age to herald any practical impact (namely, the reduction in costs renting vehicles, which I so often do–oh wait). From here forward, there are no specific age-based milestones about which I am much concerned. As someone that expects to medical science to soon usher in multi-centennial lifespans, I still consider myself awfully young. Other than things that can come out of the blue and cut life short — most of which remain true at any age — I’ve still got a long way to go.

Writing is happening. Since my last update, I hadn’t made a lot of progress in terms of word count because I’d been devoting all of my writerly efforts toward figuring out plot issues. I continually ran up against the wall of knowing what I wanted to happen in the book, but not feeling rock-solid on the scene-to-scene progression. When November rolled around, bringing with it NaNoWriMo, I decided that I knew far more about my story than I had when I set out to write Ashes and should stop being a giant baby about the whole matter. I started a day late, but have already produced 7400 new words thus far despite great deal of textual reorganization of what I already had consuming about half of my writing time. Alour-Tan II is happening. By the end of the month, the first draft will be done. There, I said it.

For the sake of NaNo, I’m only counting words written since the month began. The total word count is north of 20,000 (plus another 15,000 that I chopped out along the way), which represents roughly 20% of the projected length.

I started playing STO again. One reason you haven’t seen much in the way of 3D art updates lately is that the time I would have been devoting to modeling has gone back to Star Trek Online. I’ve been sinking far too much time into playing in an effort to finish off a number of milestones I left hanging when I stopped (achieving Tier 4 in all the Duty Officer commendations, achieving Tier 5 in all of the reputations — and this across all 5 of my characters). I’m finally starting to get some of these completed (one character has fully finished all Duty Officer commendations and only one character has reputation stuff left to do), which will in turn “free up” time for other pursuits once more. Yes, yes, that time is always technically “free” because it’s mine to do with as I please.

The Stormtrooper project has made great strides and encountered great setb–learning experiences. I had hoped to at least finish the helmet in time for Halloween, but that didn’t come to pass. It almost did, but I ran into a mechanical issue with the CNC carving machine, which left me somewhat dispirited. Specifically, I had prepared four final carving templates that, when finished, would complete the positive mold and set the first of them running — a seven hour carve. The board feeding rate appears to have been registering incorrectly, which lead to cross-sectional slices that were too short by nearly a centimeter along one axis. Seven hours wasted, after a ton of enthusiastic and positive feeling going into it. I finally worked up the gumption to deal with the problem by disassembling the machine, cleaning it, correcting some minor mechanical issues, greasing everything, and reassembling it. I still need to ensure that its sensors are all correctly calibrated before I try again, but signs are positive and the time pressure is off. Next Halloween’s a whole year away.

Here’s where things stand presently:

Hockey is back. I haven’t specifically posted about this here, but Cody and I have become pretty big hockey fans over the last year and a half or so. It started with the Boston Bruins‘ 2013 playoff run and has continued and increased to this day. We’ve been to several live Bruins games, we watch (almost) every game1, we went to Providence to see the “Baby” Bruins several times last year and are season ticket holders this year, Cody now owns a Tuukka Rask jersey, etc. Ain’t no pink hats here, even if we are relative noobs! We also joined our friends’ fantasy hockey league this year. After triumphantly crushing my first game, I have been summarily crushed twice in a row in return, which is fitting. On the plus side, my “draft players I know and like, most of which are Bruins” strategy continues to feel rewarding, even when I lose.

I’m timid about posting. This, more than anything else, is actually why this place has been so silent lately. I have plenty of things I’d like to talk about, to share, to pontificate on, to wonder over. My desire to post those things is opposed by what amounts to fear of backlash. Not only do I worry about engendering enmity for posting something in general, but since I’ve made the profile of this blog somewhat larger (it cross-posts to my Goodreads author profile and my Facebook author page, both of which are listed inside Ashes itself) I’ve more or less directly attached any potential reading audience for my books and for following me as an author to the things I post here.

The last thing I want to do is turn off a reader because of some rambling, half-formed, incomplete polemic that happened to inflame some passionate desire to express whatever thought flit through my head in that moment. There are a great many topics on which I would love to share some thoughts. Having done so in a limited, ostensibly “safe” environment and having garnered the reaction I did, I’ve become even more gun-shy about expressing them. So, instead, this place stays pretty quiet. C’est la vie.

That said, I relayed this very frustration to a friend of mine yesterday:

I just have a crapton of pent-up feelings about…well, every aspect of [many topics, though this particular one related to art and sexism] that I tend to keep to myself because not doing so tends to end up (by my hypothetical reckoning) with me screaming at every other participant for how dumb and narrow-sighted they’re being. And I suspect said pent-up feelings are getting closer and closer to a spillover. Have not been very successful at calming them, despite efforts to do so.

So, who knows? Perhaps said frustration will break a dam in the near future and all sorts of things will show up here for people to read!

The Flash is a lot of fun. I’ve been watching Arrow since it premiered and was delighted to hear that it would be spinning off a Flash TV series. So far, it’s been a lot of fun!

Holy crap, Marvel is out to rule the universe. Between the announcement of the upcoming movie slate and the marked improvement in Agents of SHIELD since its intersection with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has rather clearly marked its territory. While I am delighted to live in the era where comic book movies are emerging left and right, I have to confess to shades of the Marvel/DC rivalry coloring all of this for me. Given the preceding remark, I am by no means a loyalist to either “side” but it takes a great deal of mental gymnastics to compare any of the DC offerings with Marvel’s existing and future catalog. Perhaps Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Really, guys? That’s the title you went with?) will surprise the hell out of everybody, but I’m not holding my breath.

That should just about bring everyone up to speed! That said, I generally post something on Twitter at least once a day, which you can find in the sidebar here on the blog and which also cross-posts to my personal Facebook profile (but not my authorial one…wonder if I should change that). Follow me there if you want your daily dose of, well, me.

  1. Sometimes, we’re just not home; as long as we are, the game is always on. []
Aug 172011

A great deal has happened since my last post. I’m 27 now, had the best birthday party of my life, have been married for over a year, went on a cruise with my wife (Port Canaveral, FL and the Bahamas, leaving out of NYC), and have been doing some intense self-introspection. I’ve also been working on the second draft of The Novel (which I have now identified as the third of a four-book arc), have resumed playing guitar, and have even been working on my digital painting. Some of the stair pieces have been stained (thanks, Dad!) and more will progress in the coming weeks. Alas, as a result, still no progress on the vacuform table beyond the last update. October is not far, though, and I’ve had a new fire lit under my ass about getting it done (you know who you are).

I had an absurd amount of energy when I got home last night. I decided I should try and bleed some of it off by exercising, so I hopped on the elliptical and jogged 1.11 miles in 15 minutes. That’s not terribly impressive in and of itself, until you factor in the fact that I haven’t exercised in any serious way in months. Not sufficiently exhausted by that, I proceeded to do some weight-lifting. Still not really exhausted, but very sweaty, I showered and then rather than heating something up quick in the microwave for dinner, I decided I really wanted some eggs, so I scrambled those up. At them and still had too much energy, so I sat down to play some Rock Band on expert drums for about an hour. All of that combined finally wore me out enough to be a little more low-key. Very weird, but honestly…I could get used to having that kind of energy.

The lawn desperately needs to be mowed. It needed to be mowed before Cody and I went on our cruise. We returned this past Saturday, to find it looking like a minor rainforest. I should have mowed it then, but had just spent an hour and a half driving with my parents from NYC to CT, and then another three hours driving from CT back to MA, so I was a little tired. Sunday, it rained. Monday, it rained. Tuesday, it didn’t rain, but it was still wet. The minor rainforest is now more of a mid-tier rainforest. I am mowing tonight, the wetness of the grass notwithstanding. It’s embarrassing. Unfortunately, this probably puts the kibosh on any stair work happening this evening. Sigh.

Jan 032011

I saw a lot of people glad to be done with 2010. The general feeling seems to have been that 2010 was a less-than-satisfactory year. For my part, I’m inclined to disagree: in March, I got a new job at an awesome company working with awesome people on an awesome project; in July, my groomsmen took me to Atlantic City; in August, I got married and then went on my very first cruise; in October, Cody and I went as a very convincing Rose and the 10th Doctor for Halloween; in November, my parents finally came down to Maryland for Thanksgiving; December featured one of our best New Year’s Eve parties ever.

So, y’know, go 2010. May 2011 be as good or better.

To that end as is custom this time of year, I have a list of goals that I’m planning to work toward this year. They’re not “resolutions” and they’re not carved in stone; either notion is folly. But they’re things I care about and want to get better at, which I think carries more weight.

  • Devote some time each evening to writing or playing guitar. The main thing here is taking care of my “daily chores” in WoW, and then setting it aside while I spend some time doing either of the above activities. Once I’ve put some good effort in toward either, I’ll allow myself to go back to playing more WoW. I love my WoW hobby, but I can’t continue neglecting my others!
  • Get better about watching my diet again. I’ve slipped a bit since the wedding, which is probably entirely unsurprising to anyone who’s gotten married. I haven’t backslid irrevocably or anything drastic, but it’s noticeable enough to me that I want to do something about it. So, I plan to. Having a Droid will, I hope, make keeping track of my food intake a little easier.
  • Finish unpacking the house. This includes getting some additional furniture (bookshelves) and also tidying up the pantry shelves so that we can actually start making use of the damn thing.
  • Build the vacuform machine I’m always talking about. I intend to for Halloween to be very interesting this year.

That seems like an ambitious-enough list to start with.

Oct 122010

It was going to be about traffic. Specifically, how traffic was delightful yesterday and today was back to the usual ridiculous crap. No doubt, this was due to Columbus Day and people taking (or having) the day off of work, thereby decongesting the roads.

Had a fairly excellent weekend. Saw Easy A on Friday, which was surprisingly good. Going into it, we were discussing how we missed John Hughes movies. Lo and behold, this one is of similar spirit and directly references John Hughes in dialog a number of times. Good on them. Emma Stone is gorgeous and Stanley Tucci is brilliant. I shall say no more. Saturday, we spent the evening with Talia and Jeff at Talia’s parents’ lakehouse playing drunken Scattergories. Sunday was another WoW day. With Steve’s timely assistance, Cody got her Glory of the Hero achievement, and I whittled my own list down to 5 achievements remaining.

The three of us and some pugs finished off my Glory of the Hero last night! In before the patch!

Today marks patch day, which in turn means that massive, massive changes are occurring to the way some fundamental mechanics in the game have functioned for several years and, in some cases, since the beginning. Cody and I are both very excited about these changes, as they seem aimed at making gameplay smoother and more intuitive. Of course, the downside is that we likely won’t be able to log on tonight, since the servers are experiencing extended downtime while the patch is deployed. Further, there is already a list of known issues to watch for.

We still have no idea what to do for Halloween.

Oct 082010

I had this whole plan for what to write about today that congealed as I drove to work. It vanished when I actually sat down to write it.

Yesterday marked Cody’s and my second month as a married couple. So far, so good! It seems a little silly to celebrate these milestones, given the four-closing-on-five years we’ve been together. The relationship is solid, we love each other just as much (if not more) now than we did when everything was exciting and new, we live together well, etc. It still feels like an achievement anyway. Marriage! It’s this big, important word that, for us, represented no functional change in our relationship toward one another that nevertheless bestowed a reaffirming, reinforcing strength that I didn’t even know could exist. I heartily approve.

I decided to bite the bullet and forgo worrying about writing a tailor-made web app for play-by-post Firefly-inspired Star Wars game I’ve been planning for a few months now. Instead, I went with MyBB and will adapt it as the need arises. I’ve used phpBB in the past, but it’s always felt a little clunkier than it ought to. MyBB is very smooth by comparison. This doesn’t obviate the need for a character creation web app, but it’s one less technical hurdle to starting the game than I had before. It’s been a long-standing desire of mine to play/run a Star Wars game that used an adapted version of the 7th Sea rule-set, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Play-by-post is an odd fit for such a dynamic and fluid system, but one never knows until one actually tries.

November is bearing down on us, which poses two annoying problems. The first is that Cody and I are still at a loss about a concept for Halloween costumes this year. There isn’t enough time to do anything complex1 in the time we have—next year, for sure—but even within that constraint, it’s rough. The second problem is one of time management: NaNoWriMo is going to eat my time in November, which presents something of a blockage on both the aforementioned Star Wars game as well as the heavy WoW-playing fronts. Oh, to have just six more hours each day.

Hell, I’d settle for two.

  1. Like the various costumes I’d make with a vacuform table []
Sep 272010

If you’ve been here long enough, or are the sort to read a blog’s entire archive when you stumble across it1, you may remember my this entry I posted about Halloween last year. The time is approaching once again, and once again both Cody and I are a bit at a loss for what to do. We have a fallback plan, but neither of us is very gung-ho about it and want something more interesting. I’m toying with the idea of trying to finish my Vader costume from several years ago, this time by first building a vacuforming table and constructing the various armor pieces out of plastic rather than placemats. The downside to this is that it leaves Cody in the lurch about a costume, since she has no interest in a Padmé costume2. The implications behind such a pairing are a little disconcerting, anyway.

I finally got caught up with House this weekend. I had forgotten how much I adore that show. Looking forward to tonight’s episode, especially on the heels of the last one, though I don’t know when I’ll actually watch it. Cody hasn’t caught up yet and I don’t want her to get spoiled about recent events. Olivia Wilde continues to be mind-breakingly gorgeous, but Cody is absolutely right when she points out that it’s particularly true in House. Outside of the context of the show, Olivia Wilde’s sculpted features can get a little too inhuman. Almost certainly a function of makeup.

September has been a very tough month, though not for any particular reason I can point to. Cody’s been feeling it too; the entire month has just felt frantic and busy beyond justification. You’d think that with the wedding behind us, things would have settled down. I think some of the insanity may stem from all the stuff we set aside for the wedding, or perhaps tuned-out while dealing with the wedding, which is now coming back with a vengeance. Even work has been nuts for the both of us, though. Not bad, just crazy busy. I’m hoping things will settle down a bit in October…so that the craziness of Halloween can take focus. Ugh.

Never rains, but it loves to pour.

  1. Guilty of doing that many times myself. []
  2. Can you blame her? []

Halloween Redux

 Posted by at 12:11  3 Responses »
Oct 152009

I’m excited about Halloween.

Cody and I have decided to pair as Dr. Horrible (her) and Captain Hammer (me).  They’re simple costumes, so they don’t really fulfill that deep-seated need to construct something  epic.  However, they’re fun costumes that we can achieve with the time we have.  Most of the attendees at the party we’re attending should recognize the outfits, which is a bonus.

So, that’s good news.

From a more long-term point of view, I did some reading up and I severely underestimated the utility of papier-mâché.  I’ve been imagining a future filled with hot ABS plastic and noxious fiberglass-resin fumes because those seemed the only ways to get good, smooth, solid costume pieces. I’ve always thought of papier-mâché as crude and flimsy.  In the form I used, it was.  But that’s because I was only exploring part of it.  Check out this guy.

It makes a lot of sense, if one pauses to think about it. At its most basic, papier-mâché is the same thing as fiberglass: fibers suspended in a glue.  Paper is a lot stronger than one might give it credit for, too.  Sure, we can rip paper by pulling nearby sections in opposite directions, but have you ever tried to tug on it from two opposite ends?  It’ll give, but not without effort and usually local to the area where you’re pulling, not in the middle where the highest stress is.  Paper’s strong stuff.  Add glue to the mix and you’ve got a decent material—if you execute it correctly.

What’s more, the “strip” form is only one of the two ways to use papier-mâché.  The other, using pulped paper, ends up as a clay-like material that can be molded and shaped however you want.  Way more versatile.  Layer something up with several layers of strips, work in detail with the clay form, and then waterseal it with lacquer of some kind and you’ve got a pretty formidable piece of hardware that’ll stand up to a good amount of weathering.

Get some fine-grained sandpaper to smooth it down, and you might, might have something on par with ABS plastic or fiberglass—as far as costuming goes, anyway—and at a fraction of the cost and risk (glass fibers can do terrible things to your lungs; where’s the risk in water, paper, and flour?).

Suffice it to say I plan to test out this hypothesis at the earliest opportunity.  If it works, hoo boy.  I shall become a costume making machine.

Oct 132009

I love and hate Halloween.

One of my ambitions in life is to get to a point where I can make awesome costumes. Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, Iron Man, and Night Owl (with Cody as Silk Spectre) are all on my list. Halloween gives me a great excuse to make these costumes without the expense of having to go to a con to show them off.

Now that Cody and I have a house, I have a place where I could actually make some of these. Unfortunately, we’re not quite settled-in enough yet to start doing that.

This is why I hate Halloween. Every year, I get excited about making costumes. Every year, I end up with a costume I’m disappointed in—if I end up with a costume at all. The last Halloween costume I was somewhat proud of was my Kosh costume—10 years ago (which reminds me, I should put Kosh on the costume list and take a crack at doing it with fiberglass instead of paper-mâché).

Perhaps some day, I’ll start making good on these unfulfilled ambitions. I can only hope that I can provide my kids with awesome costumes so that they never have to feel this perpetual disappointment.

So, yeah. Halloween is not the most uplifting time of year for me.