Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pleasant Times

Hello everyone. Thought this rainy Wednesday morning might be a good one for blogging. Things are going pretty well these days. Other than my continued sleep troubles, no illnesses have plagued me. I suppose allergy season could be coming up any time now. I believe I'm prepared for that.

Sara and I ended up getting together in April after all and enjoyed a good portion of the Mushroom FM murder mystery weekend. It was a dream come true to have someone there who actually enjoyed an online event like that with me. They outdid themselves this year. Good music and conversation, well-handled trivia and other game elements and a surprisingly good actual mystery. I shamelessly confess I failed utterly to figure out who did the dastardly deed before the weekend was over.

It doesn't feel like a month has gone by since my last blog posting just after the sleep study. A fair bit has happened. The conference on disabilities went pretty well. I learned some new things and met some very interesting people. I've actually missed a couple of Sundays at church due to my disrupted sleep. Eventually, I'll have to meet with the deacons and elders to figure out whether any of the material I still have to read over will be of use to the congregation. So far as I can tell, things are ticking along pretty smoothly so I don't feel too badly about taking my time engaging in this new role.

Carine and Kevin took me to Canada's Wonderland for the first time this year. It was good to be back and on the roller coasters again. There were no difficulties with my season's pass. It seems that each of us is in a stable relationship with a significant other now. We've all been busier. I hadn't seen Kevin in ages and it was good to catch up a little with his happenings. Doubtless, we'll do a number of trips to Canada's Wonderland over the coming months. It's nice to have already paid for the season's pass what with all the changes in economic priorities this past while has thrown at me. One does have to alter spending habits once a serious relationship gets underway. Each time I've had one, I've been in slightly different circumstances so it's not really something that gets more polished. I have a very strong sense that this one's for keeps though and that a lapse back into single life isn't going to happen any time soon. Thank God and Sara for that.

Thankfully, I'll be missing this Sunday's service due to actually being away visiting Sara for this long weekend. My sleep has somewhat settled into reasonable if not perfect timing. It's always nice to have something special to do for these long weekends. They could really drag some years when it seemed that everyone but me had people to celebrate with. My backpack and other travel gear are certainly getting used. For this warmer part of the year, I've gotten a new hat, waterproof iPHONE case, and new karabiners for attaching my water bottles to belt or pack if need be. The reviews on Mountain Equipment Co-op stood me in pretty good stead over all as they tend to do. I'm very pleased with the Outdoor Research Sun Bucket hat. The chinstrap was easy to remove. I've always found those things a nuisance. It's a light comfortable hat with a good crushable but stiff brim. Easy to stick in a pocket when indoors. It doesn't interfere with hearing what's around me anywhere near as much as my Roots hat did. Provided it stands up to some years of use, I'll likely get a similar replacement when needed. The case isn't tat all what I expected when I ordered it. However, I've taken it out for walks a few times and have found that the GPS is far more accurate when hung around my neck than when in my pocket. It's also possible to make use of the compass and manipulate the app. The lanyard is thick and secure enough that I don't worry about the iPHONE dropping. A good thin case for travel but not a good permanent case given no hole for earphones and no way to charge it unless the case is open. Last but not least are the karabiners. Overall, I'm pretty happy with them. They're just a bit too small to hang from my belt. I'd have to get a thinner one. However, I can slide them onto my belt like I do with my cane holster. The hooks work very well. It's easy to hang and detach a water bottle or whatever one might hang from them using one hand. They have no sharp parts so I don't have to worry about damaging the rubber loop joining the cap to the bottle top. A very satisfactory purchase although I'm by no means convinced there aren't even more suitable karabiners out there.

Nearly two weeks have gone by now since I started this entry. The long weekend with Sara was terrific. We went to an Indian restaurant having a delicious dinner on the Friday night. On Saturday, we were at one of her aunt's 60th birthday party. That also went quite well and I got to meet some of her extended family. So far, I seem to be doing alright with her folks and family as far as I can tell. They're good people. I have yet to meet her friends. They're even more scattered and busy than mine I think. On Sunday, we were unfortunately unable to go to her church so I still have that whole crowd to meet. Despite that collapsed excursion plan, the day was still quite pleasant and busy. We had a relaxed morning and afternoon listening to some radio dramas and Mushroom FM. The evening featured a very good dinner followed by fireworks and cards. Her family is particularly apt to play card games. Cards aren't my strong suit so to speak. Luckily, I can somewhat manage a few games like Texas Hold em, Poker, and Blackjack. Despite all the activity, Sara and I had plenty of time alone.

I used my large backpack for the weekend. It worked on the whole but the lap desk tends to stretch the day pack more than I'd like. Once you reach your main destination and get the day pack organized, things go pretty well other than that lap desk problem. There just isn't quite enough width for a perfectly comfortable fit. Also, you can't zip the day pack onto the main pack if it's at all full. For future trips, I think I'll bring my computer case. It can seem like overkill but things are better protected and it all fits in so nicely.

Last week just seems to have flown past and snuck away. Part of that was due to my sleeping and waking times being all screwed up. I've done a whole lot of reading and worked some on Land of Trivion. Zombies Run has gotten some play time as well. They've really improved that game over the past while in terms of accessibility and how missions are handled. You have a lot more control over how much space it takes on your i device now. Hats off to that crew for taking accessibility into account and not leaving their blind customers in the lurch. Swamp, that more sedentary but frenetic zombie game, has also gotten some more attention. I'm in an area that's an actual swamp within the game. Lots of trees blocking movement around and zombies are very tough. My character has died countless times but I just keep coming back despite all my complaints about very broken game balance. It's just such a good way to socialize and blow off steam.

The Kindle app has just become extremely accessible for blind people. I had to check that action out so I signed up with Amazon and bought a few books. One of these books was Fallthru by Paul H. Deal. What a splendid read it is. A scifi fantasy hybrid that actually works well. I only wish the game could run on modern Windows machines. It's a real treat having the game world I came to appreciate so much all fleshed out. It's quite a long and interesting read which I have yet to finish. I also bought a couple of game design books. Once Sara figured out how to use the table of contents properly, a whole lot of very interesting and applicable books suddenly became accessible. I had originally heard that it wouldn't work at all but this proved not to be the case. You have to feel around until you find the chapter you want and then double-tap on it. You can't flick left and right between chapters within the table of contents though. Once that mystery was solved, it made real sense to get some of the game design and history books suddenly made accessible to me. One of my purchases was Stephen Kent's Ultimate History of Video Games. My parents got me the print book for a birthday present which I tried to scan. I failed to keep the 624 pages in order and could never read the complete book. Thankfully, I now have it on my iPHONE in completely ordered and accessible form. Reading sections of another book, Kobold Guide to board game Design has already cause me to change my board layout in Land of Trivion. Some very good stuff in that one. At long last, I've finished reading the Hyperion books. Simmons does an excellent job of explaining his universe and how things came about. Those books raise a lot of interesting issues about religion, faith, hope, heroism, etc. Plenty of food for thought there. Over the last weekend, my parents celebrated their 44th anniversary. Quite a remarkable achievement keeping things as stable for themselves and us for as long as they have. Even while growing up, I had a sense of what a treasure such a stable long marriage was as I met more kids from divorced families. Once you've gone through a divorce yourself after only five years of marriage, you appreciate it all the more. That's one area of life that I still very much hope to be successful; a long stable happy marriage where both of us have room to be who we are and to change on our own terms. I'd like to think the lessons I've learned will pay off there eventually.

It was good to be back in church on Sunday. I've missed nearly a month due mainly to my sleep difficulties and being away for one weekend. Looks like I may indeed be going to the multiethnic conference again this year. It's always been an interesting trip. I just wish there was more of a sense of progress being made and less a sense of pulling at stubborn teeth. Churches should be world leaders in terms of any justice-related stuff but they never really seem to be. Perhaps, I'm too idealistic for my own good. I've certainly been accused to that often enough. It's just hard to tell where the church leadership stands on it what with the Belhar confession being reduced to some sort of spiritual document rather than the force for real positive change it could have been. Are they interested in actual change for the better, or are we just some sort of steam valve releasing pressure to a point where it won't cause damage? A question requiring wiser heads than mine to answer I fear.

It's hard to believe another month is about to begin. Sleeping through chunks of day really does some odd things with one's sense of time. I slept in until around ten o'clock this morning. Guess I really needed the sleep. I was dozing off toward the end of last evening. Hopefully, this week will be more productive than last week turned out. It's nice being able to work out here on the balcony. There hasn't been as much noise as I thought there might be. We have pool maintenance and renovation on the ground floor of part of my building going on. I think the pool stuff was mostly over the lat couple weeks and it might be finished now. Hard to tell at times especially when some stuff gets bumped and rescheduled. They're good about giving us notice when they expect things to happen though. Overall, I very much like how the staff maintain the building and interact with us pennants. I know that's a blessing many of my friends don't share.

Hearing about the ongoing troubles of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has given me a lot to think about. For one thing, it's a good illustration of how questionable decisions made even by others you're related to earlier in life can come back to haunt you later. I wonder which way the pendulum will ultimately swing as more of what once was private life and youthful indiscretion becomes a matter of public record. Will everyone's expectations simply adjust so that people actually have room for the odd mistaken venture and can grow from their mistakes? Or, will people basically be in a situation where anything they do while young might serve as a ball and chain later on and people who have learned their lessons through experience simply won't be able to attain positions where those lessons might help others? We seem to want utterly perfect people in office rather than people who are sincere and try their best to work with what's there. I've never really liked Rob Ford but I can somewhat sympathize. Have the kids I've spoken with at the Dam already done things which employers will consider fare reason for not hiring them? A young person's criminal record is wiped clean after they turn 18 if I remember right. The Internet, however, is a different matter. Overall, I think society in general has a lot of sorting out to do regarding forgiveness and should better figure out what people want from the punitive side of justice. Do we want our criminals simply removed from society? Do we want them to realize the harm they've done and to become better citizens? Both, I think. Somehow though, we have to get things sorted so people who are defending themselves or their property don't end up being made powerless due to the fear of getting sued. Criminals do cross a line with their actions. Victims should be better able to defend themselves and get more than they often seem to from the justice system. Perhaps, more psychological examination should come into the picture so that people who really have a desire to reform could get the chance to while others who just wouldn't benefit from such programs could be punished in a way which would better make them think twice.

The sun is starting to make the balcony a tad uncomfortable as six o'clock approaches. I've moved in onto the couch. I have CBC Radio1 coming through on the TV. It worked quite well on the laptop over the afternoon but I figure I may as well save a little bandwidth. I've almost never gone over my cap but I'm spending a lot on books this month. I just purchased another one about psychology and board games. Moves In Mind; The Psychology of Board Games had a whole bunch of authors including Fernad Gobet. From its description, I think I'll learn a lot of useful stuff. I have to create a game which will keep people engaged and interested yet still allow for socialization. The game can't demand total concentration on it for the whole time it's being played. People have to want to take an interest while it's not their turn but not be overly disadvantaged if they don't or can't. Doubtless, the game board and other elements of Land of Trivion will feel its force. It had better. This one weighs in at $41 and that's quite heavily discounted on Amazon. People might find it interesting to know that this isn't the most expensive digital book I've ever purchased in my attempt to learn the ins and outs of game design. That record stands at $53 spent on Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams which I bought from Peach Pit Press. Thinking this over, I don't believe I've spent anywhere near as much on books about game design and history as I've spent on royalty-free music and sound effects to be eventually used in the game. Those two categories probably have gone close to $1500 spread out over the past ten years or so. I won't really derive any pleasure from these assets until and unless I can use them in a game. I do, of course, get the peace of mind knowing that they're available and I'll have the rights to use them even if it takes another ten years to reach that point. Actually, they might get used a little in Sparkle too. There's another project I've badly neglected over the past while. With the books, I get some benefit regardless of whether I succeed or not. I gain a deeper understanding of the games I play or hear about others playing. I also find that I can often spice up conversation with some of the more interesting techniques, observations, insights and general psychology behind the games we treasure. It's a lot like my English degree. It's added a lot to my character as I've read and attempted to apply what I've learned. Games are at least as relevant as anything I studied in university. Even if all someone can appreciate is dollar potential, games have been raking in even more than movies for years now. Any way you slice it, they're relevant to society, culture and life in general. Even if I never see a penny in compensation for all my effort and expense, this quest to create a good game that other's enjoy and learn from has already added immeasurably to my life and allowed me to add to the lives of people who have chosen to get to know me. Especially when you don't have a job, I think it's pretty important to have at least one grand hobby or ob cession. It keeps you growing as a person and propels your thinking in different ways. It's something that can keep you from going nuts when it seems like nothing you do counts for anything. I can't say that it has lead to a large boost in self esteem although it certainly helps when you feel your understanding gradually growing deeper. If anything, I think I've become a more humble man as I've learned just how much thought, effort and knowledge goes into creating the games some people all too quickly dismiss as wastes of time. One gains a kind of mature gravity as decisions made and why they either worked or didn't work become more fully thought through. I don't think it really matters what one's grand hobby or ob cession is as long as others have shared it and made provision for others to learn from their journey.

It's getting later. Closing in on midnight in fact. I've been writing this and taking the odd break to get a wonderful cup of Screech tea and pace up and down the balcony. It's grown a tad too chilly to sit out there without resorting to a jacket but the odd brief pacing cession helps keep the thoughts fresh. I still have quite a bit of Screech tea from the sixty bags I ordered all those months ago. In this world of constant consumption, it's a damned nice surprise when something lasts longer than one expects. What with my sleeping issues, books are going at a very rapid rate. On the bright side, there hasn't been any need to spend on technology in a while. There haven't even been any gadgets of particular interest. The only area I keep a real close watch on lately is that of backup power generation. I keep thinking that it might be good to get something which could generate enough electricity to keep my laptop and iPHONE charged, power my microwave, etc. It's an area I wouldn't mind spending a reasonable amount of money on but nothing has come up that strikes me as very reasonable or practical yet. Other than the external battery I have for my iPHONE, everything else just strikes me as mainly too expensive and/or too dependant on sunlight. I'm not certain how well that would work despite the intensely sunny evenings my balcony experiences. If I could get one of these solar panel things and hook my laptop with its battery depleted, I could get a better sense of how practical a completely solar solution would be. I'd feel much better if foot pedal or hand cranking generation were also possible though. I think wind power holds too much danger in an apartment setting although I'd be interested to find out how much power a wind turbine could generate on the roof of the building during some of the more windy days we've had.

I haven't been able to remember many dreams lately. I seem to be slowing down creatively also. Hopefully, the sleep study has revealed something that might help me get more reliable sleep. Guess I'll find that out on June 3. I need all the dreams and interesting thoughts I can get my hands on.

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