I lost money, but I’m okay with that.

I spent last night playing poker. I did not do well, financially, but the big blind was fifty cents so I didn’t lose a whole lot. I actually had myself ahead for about an hour in the middle there but then started really getting dumb with the mistakes and tanked quickly afterward.

I will never play “for real” in a casino where the money is considerably harder but I have spent more for an evening’s entertainment so I feel more or less alright about it.

I did feel rather awkward at times as I’m very new to the game and made some clear “newbie” mistakes. It didn’t help that said mistakes then played on my usual insecurities making me feel even more awkward leading to me making even more mistakes. I’ve really got to watch that spiral.

And I think my tactic of telling stories as a method of introducing myself to a new social circle actually worked against me for once. I suspect I was starting to annoy some of the other players.

Anyhoo… onward and outward, I guess.

The job continues to be great and I continue to feel incredibly grateful for it, every day. Even moreso on the weekends as I now have them off (except when extra work is necessary) and can co-ordinate with others for social activities.

Not that I’m actually doing that yet, but the potential is there. So far I’m just going along with other people’s plans, but at least I can *do* that now.

In other facets of the same situation, I’m now struggling with a decision that was so much easier a month ago. I have been pursuing the opportunity to go back to school this fall. Everyone I know has been very positive and encouraging about it, expressing how happy they are that I’m taking positive steps. That has been good.

But now I have a relatively good job. Not a *lot* of money, but at least something I can live on, doing work I enjoy for a company I honestly believe in. In order to continue my school pursuits I would have to quit that job, and chances are I would be looking to work somewhere else once my education was done. At least given the education I’m aiming at now.

So… do I ditch the hand I have now for a potentially great hand, or do I stick with the good and comfortable hand I’ve been dealt? There’s no guarantee the new hand would work for me, there never is, but rationally it makes a certain amount of sense.

On the gripping hand I could explore other educational directions, ones that fit better with, and perhaps augment, the job I find myself in right now. An appealing option, but I haven’t even worked in this business for a month yet and it seems foolhardy to adjust my life / career directions based on a few short weeks’ worth of experience. I haven’t even played directly with the product yet.

Hm, I think I may have just found a direction to move at least in so far as exploring more information. More information is a good thing, more often than not, and will provide me with a more confident decision in (hopefully) the near future.

On the purely frivolous side I’ve bought myself an iPod touch (or an “iPad mini”) and have been loving it. I would have gone for an iPhone instead but I only just started a new 3 year contract and therefore would not have qualified for the slightly less insane price. The Touch is doing a marvelous job so far.

Life needs an upgrade

Had a wonderful evening of dinner and games with Wildor and Sandi last night. I’d never played “The Game of Life” before. I decided it was too narrow in scope and started suggesting other areas of life it could cover, things like: it needs a third alternative to “Educated” and “Uneducated” paths… it needs a Criminal path, one with lots of associated challenges and perils. It also needs an alternative to “Get Married” and an alternative to “Buy a House”. Assuming those two events must happen in your life seems rather closed minded.

Over thirty years of telling you there's only one way to live your life. Smile!

Over thirty years of telling you there's only one way to live your life. Smile!

Before I knew it Wildor and Sandi were handing me the game and encouraging me to rebuild it. Now it’s sitting on our kitchen table and I’m itching to take it apart.

I figure the game should allow you to go through college at any point in the game, even near the end. The “college path” should be separate from the regular path and you should be able to jump to it if and when you have enough time and/or money.

The criminal path should also be separate and available at any stage of the game. It should be incredibly easy to get into and twice as hard to get out of. It should also have the potential to have a lasting negative effect for the rest of the game even if you leave the criminal level. It should also have the potential to end your game early.

I also have issue with the “life experience” events resulting in tokens that simply provide money. The goal of the entire game is to retire with as much money as possible. How incredibly Republican. I think life experiences should simply equate to Life Experience and the player who finishes the game with the most Life Experience, regardless of how much money they’ve accumulated, would be the winner. I know in the current game it essentially works out the same way since the cash money you accumulate is generally an order of magnitude less than the “life experience” money, I just object to the “life experience” being expressed as a dollar value. I don’t think Ghandi or Michael Palin would express their life experience as a dollar value.

Sandi experienced my point directly when she was supremely disappointed to find the dice rolls taking her from payday to safe and boring payday without hitting any of the squares in between. She was amassing quite a nest egg in terms of cash but wasn’t “getting to play the game” in between. Money is all well and good as a tool (and I know we all wish we had more of it) but it is hardly a goal in and of itself. That being said, I’m first to point out that while money can’t buy happiness it can always make your tedium just a little more comfortable and offers more opportunities for happiness than poverty does.

I think I’m starting to talk circles here.

The problem with adding to a game like this is it’s far to easy to keep going without knowing where to stop. It could quickly grow into… a role playing game.

I do find it interesting, and slightly amusing, that the only adjustment needed to the game to allow for gay marriage is the assumption that “having kids” includes the option to adopt. And, hey, if Ronya’s lesbian couple can become grandparents without actually having any kids (“One of the kids from a former marriage, back when I thought I was straight, had a kid of her own…”) then I think the mechanism is more than adequate for handling adoption as a way of expanding the family.

Anyway, enough rambling, time to get the car washed…

Another year older, another day wiser…

I now have some pictures to go along with some of this so I suppose it’s time for an update.

Well, long past time, I’m sure. I haven’t written a lot of blogs in the past couple of years and… that’s something I need to fix. I really just need to open up a text window and start typing away.

I turned 44 a few weeks ago. I’ll spare you the existential angst I went through at the turn of double four… suffice to say I didn’t think I’d be where I am at this age. Then again, I didn’t have any firm idea of where I’d be at all so the outcome really isn’t surprising. It’s hard to be surprised when you don’t have any expectations.

It is, however, easy to be disappointed when you don’t have any expectation. And that revelation… surprised me.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Turning 44.

I have a wealth of friends, more than any man’s share I’m sure, and they all went to great lengths to ensure I enjoyed my birthday. Ronya, in particular, went to amazing lengths.

First there was a dinner party at Shane and Dianne’s place on Friday night with the tribe. Lots of candy and cake and a bit of Scene It: Disney style. We were all kind of curious as to why every single answer had to be prefaced with the word “Disney’s” until we got our first question about Toy Story, the answer to which was “Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story”. It pretty soon became a running joke that every answer was “Disney’s Something” unless the clue was digitally rendered in which case it was “Disney/Pixar’s Something”. It’s amazing how often copyright issues turn even the simplest things into lame jokes.

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Playing Xbox at the Chinook Theater

Saturday morning a small collection of us showed up at the Scotiabank Theater in Chinook Mall to play some Xbox. Ronya had rented out the the theater for a couple of hours and we got to play Left 4 Dead, Halo 3, and Dead or Alive 4 on the biggest projection TV screen in the world. DOA4 is even better when the jiggly bits are each bigger than you are, but Left 4 Dead was just creepy with zombies twenty feet tall and 130 decibels loud.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

Playing DOA4 on the biggest widescreen ever.

After the Xbox we transitioned over to my favorite pub, Limericks, for a lunch of my favorite greasy, cheesy food. It was a bit touch and go at first, though. It took me three tries to finally find a patio chair that wasn’t broken. The food, weather, and company very quickly made up for it, though.

After lunch… well, I had a nap, didn’t I? I’m not getting any younger, you know. An exciting day like that will take a lot out of a man my age.

After my afternoon nap we ventured up into the far northwest to Tony and Mary Ann’s’ place where we grazed on fine food and alcohol. My friends got to enjoy doodling on me like a curved, spongy white board for a while. Dianne had purchased me a plain white t-shirt and then made we wear it while everyone doodled on my with markers and fabric color pens. It’s an odd feeling being written on and it kind of made me appreciate what it might be like to be a notebook. Ronya drew epaulets on both my shoulders but many people felt they looked more like irradiated penises aiming for my ears. Others wrote across my back that I was offering free hugs… after a mail in rebate. I think my favorite bit was the pocket that got drawn on my chest, complete with pocket protector and a varied selection of pens.

Being a human sketch pad tickles

Being a human sketch pad tickles

As the dye dried on my shirt we then dove into Rock Band: The Beatles, drinks well in hand to best adapt to the mindset of the band. I have never, and probably will never, sing for Rock Band but I was given to understand that the addition of two other singers and the potential for harmonizing made the game both more interesting and more difficult. For me it was just cool playing with six people all at once.

We played through the storyline of the entire game. The best I can say is it’s definitely worth playing through once, but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of replay-ability. Perhaps if they actually had the whole library of Beatles tunes instead of just the 35 selected tracks, or if they had even just built the game around all their chart-able hits, it might have been worth going back and playing some of them again. But some of their track choices, while providing and interesting perspective on the band’s development (you could actually *feel* the disintegration of the band’s normal cohesion throughout the last set) weren’t compelling enough to go back and play again.

That being said if they made the tracks available for download for regular Rock Band I’d be willing to download about half of them.

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Playing Rock Band Beatles

Last but certainly not least, Ronya’s family pooled money together to buy me the Carcassonne Big Box, a collection of the basic Carcassonne game and five of it’s more popular expansions.

We’ve played the game almost every day since we got it and I’m nowhere near tired of it yet. The game box itself contains an interesting feature that appeals to my detail oriented nature: the interior of the box is formed in such a way that each set of tiles ( the basic and each of the expansions ) has it’s own precision fit storage slot. This way you can pick and choose which expansions to use for the game you’re playing. (ie. if you’re feeling particularly adversarial you can put in the princess / dragon / fairy expansion) The tiles themselves are watermarked with a little symbol depicting the expansion they’re from so it’s easy to sort them all out later and put them back in their respective holes.

Yes, I’m so anal I’m gushing about the organizational packaging that came with the game more than the actual game itself.

But the game itself is great fun as well. So far I think I’ve only won two actual games but I don’t care, it’s just fun to play.

Big thanks to all my friends and family, and to my tribe, for setting up an awesome birthday weekend.

Tripin' but not Tripin'

Did some motorcycle maintenance this afternoon. Lubricated the drive chain, which seriously needed it. Of course it wasn’t until after I’d liberally coated the chain in lubricant that I noticed it was in serious need of adjustment. So I got out the tools and maintenance manual, loosened up the rear wheel axle, adjusted the tensioners on the chain until it had the right amount of slack, then tightened it all up again. I have to say I’m honestly proud of myself. I’ve never been much for mechanics, and I’m constantly terrified I’m going to screw something up. But I took the bike out for a short test drive and it all seems to work just fine. Better, in fact, as the proper tension seems to have resolved that slight fluctuation in power I used to experience in lower gears. I confess, though, that I’m still worried I may have misaligned something that will only reveal itself in a catastrophic chain failure at highway speeds. But that’s just how my mind works. Constantly worried I did something wrong.

I’ve done a few more rides on the motorbike in the past week. So far an hour is about all I can handle before my ass feels like it’s been sitting on a narrow hardwood bench all day. Perhaps it’s something my body will adapt to, but right now I can’t help but think it’s a simple problem of too much weight on too small a seat, neither of which is changing anytime soon. My body is just too freaking heavy.

I had been toying with the idea of riding to Saskatoon this coming weekend for my high school class’ 25th reunion… but tonight I’ve decided there really isn’t sufficient reason to go. I’ve had a few of my classmates asking if they’ll see me, which is nice and all… but these are people who’s names I barely recognize. And it occurred to me tonight… the vast majority of my close friends through high school either didn’t attend my school or were in a different grade. The only two guys from my actual classes that I hung out with, Brendan and Alan, aren’t on the reunion list. The rest of the people on the list are just names I kind of recognize. I’d be standing around in a room of people reminiscing about things that never involved me.

It’s not that I didn’t do anything in high school… I remember toga parties where the primary entertainment was listening to, and joking along with, Monty Python albums. There were drinking parties outside in the summer… driving up and down main street for hours meeting up with other kids and racing… there were drive in movies (remember drive in movies?)… and gaming sessions. Endless, tireless gaming sessions. There were the long weekends with Rocky Horror midnight shows… tons and tons of shit I did with my friends to the point where my mother didn’t know where I was most weekends. But none of it was ever done with any of the people actually showing up to the reunion. About the only thing I have in common with those people, beyond the common academics, is some band practice. The only truly interesting class to me, my computer science class, involved Brendan and Alan… the only other extra curricular activity of note was the photography club, of which only Brendan and I were members.

And in all honesty, as interesting as it might be to see how some of these people have changed (and in all likelihood how many of them haven’t) it just isn’t worth the expense. Particularly now when the money could be put to better use elsewhere. The cost of the reunion, combined with food and lodging, would just nicely replace that beat up laptop I’m currently not able to use due to a dead $150 power adapter.*

Which is sad because… it would be nice to see some of my friends from 25 years ago. But there’s no “Twenty Fifth Reunion Of The Random Strange And Interesting People Joel Used To Hang Out With” committee so I guess it’ll have to wait until the 30th or something.

And I have no idea why this should keep me up in the middle of the night, but here I am typing this up at 4:30 in the morning.

* On a slightly related note some friends have come forward with offers of assistance so it looks like there might be a hot tub at the BBQ after all… more news if and as it happens.

Thieving Gnomes

I was totally freaked out last night. I thought I’d lost my phone. It wasn’t in my usual pocket when I undressed for bed and I couldn’t find it anywhere else in the house. I barely reassured myself that I must have left at work and was thus able to get to sleep. This morning, when I arrived at my desk, I couldn’t see the phone anywhere. I looked on the desk, underneath, everywhere. Then, thinking I might have dropped it somewhere in the office I called it and gave a listen.

It was on my desk, practically right in front of me, hidden only by one of my headphone earpieces. And I seriously looked through my desk. I have no idea how I missed it.

My suspicion is that the key gnomes are either getting bored or expanding their repertoire to include small electronics. They must have put it back just as I was dialing the phone.

Little thieving bastards.