It’s my birthday, and the first of my incoming birthday greetings made a point to reference that 37 is a prime number, and that it should bear some sort of significance, and coming from the source I know they think that’s about as absurd as I do. That’s a nice feeling, somehow. I’m unsure if it was meant as a reference to my work at Amazon, in which case the comment was worth a joke and a half.
2019 was a tremendously long year, bucking the apparent stereotype of time moving faster as we get older. Maybe I just haven’t found the other end of that bell curve yet. This is first post here for 2020, and first in over half a year, though there have been a few attempts in that time that I lost steam on. I’ve been a poor user of social media for that time, outside of a stint at trying to keep up with Inktober, which was fun, but my surroundings at the time did not lend a great amount of free time to do so.
While I was in Japan, Facebook seemed to have a higher purpose. It was the easiest way to tell everyone what was happening. That didn’t really change after I changed continents, but somehow my return to America made it seem to gradually lose purpose, though the need of those things may not have actually faded.
I find myself reeling each time I look at Twitter or Facebook (and Instagram, for that matter). The swirling horror of politics hovers over every brief session, and I don’t mean just the political posts, but the drama surrounding the very social networks themselves. Am I supposed to delete all the accounts as some gesture of fighting the man, as at least one of my friends has done, or do I try force my eyes out of focus to ignore all of that and throw things on there in an effort to keep up with old friends because these places happen to be the places most people wound up doing that sort of thing?
Does posting pictures of my own kids being goofy somehow violate their rights to privacy? Should I be actively reacting to other peoples’ political posts? Should I be spamming my own memes in a desperate attempt to push the needle back towards sanity, no doubt uncovering opinions of friends and distant family that I might not be happy I learn about? This blog was intended as a sort of solution to this, keeping the bulk of the personal in my own little corner of the Internet, but these sorts of thoughts fill my mind every time I think about trying to get involved in social media again and it’s strangely exhausting, which has generally kept me from posting much of anything.
I’ve proven fairly poor at keeping the blog flowing, though I feel oddly fine with it. The last 12 months have been all sorts of strange, and The List proved more of a constant focus. While I finished very little, I made progress on quite a lot.
45,000 words I’ve managed to write, which is only half way there. More importantly, it’s half way there. With how things were going last year, I didn’t imagine I’d get that far. It’s been a few hundred words here an there, usually on the bus back and forth. The important thing is just to keep going and not to worry whether or not it’s trash. Trash can be fixed. Blank pages can be fixed, too, and usually by writing trash. It seems to be a pretty simple two-step process (after the various steps leading up to getting myself to start in the first place.) I feel pretty good about getting the first draft out this year, and having some time to take care of the last mile on a number of other things.
As noted above, I’ve obviously failed at the whole “post a bunch of stuff on the Internet” thing. The next blogs-per-month data set for 2019 is going to have a big hole in the summer. Life happens, and it keeps on happening. It doesn’t help that at any given moment I feel obligated to dislike doing anything on Facebook or Twitter. It’s part of why I ended up going the blog route at all. Searches for “Why you should hate Twitter” and “Why you should hate Facebook” result in piles of rants, which may all be justified. “Why you should hate WordPress” results in mostly unrelated things, and one post telling me I’m supposed to think WordPress is confusing, but I should use it anyway. They’d done a better job of one of the following: 1) not being evil, 2) not looking like they’re evil, 3) somehow controlling all Internet opinions of them. I’m guessing it’s one of the first two.
Something I have certainly learned, and it explains a lot of what feels like the procedural generated Internet of today: quantity > quality until people actually start looking. I have no idea how many people have read this vs. how many have “read” it (picking up key words and randomly subscribing automatically because someone decided they should code a robot to do that.) If I were interested in aggressively amassing followers I’d probably be better off setting up something to scrape reddit for that auto-summarizing bot and just copy/past them. I’m not really into that, though, so I’ll just keep posting when I post. Perhaps this year the mood will strike more frequently. Perhaps more now that I’ve started getting Chase to record his complaining about things with me. Why keep all that to ourselves when we could have randos consume it and share in the whatever that is. The important thing is it’s a good time, and there’s plenty of creative commons music to slap on it to give it that extra bit of pizazz.
Just a quick note. After getting fully unfocused in the fall of last year, I’ve gotten back to poking at writing this book , and have now made it to the mid point, at least in word count. Just 45,000 more to go!
So it’s been about 10 months since I resurrected the idea of blogging in my mind, and I’ve managed only as many posts as there have been months. Let’s start with some standard statistics, because I love me some actual data:
My average word count has been 475, with a slow trend to more with each post. The last one really helped bring the average up, and it shows that I’m more likely to write a whole lot if I’m somehow invested in the topic emotionally.
January was the biggest month, full of hope and bravado. It helped that we were quarantined in the house in Japan on our vacation of mostly being sick. The biggest block came in April, where I fully lost track of all of this, and while on the one hand it’s ultimately up to me to find time to put finders to the keys to get these things happening, work really threw me for a loop there for awhile. I won’t get into specifics, but good golly the first half of this year was just a miserable time.
Things in that area improved greatly, but my return to the blog has been a rocky one, finally picking back up in October. This is also the first month I’ve gotten back into doing actual writing what is becoming almost daily again. The first draft of my book is 11% complete by word count, and around 5% of that has come in the last week (vs. the first half taking the better part of the summer).
After spending the first half of the year really trying to put the Save the Cat method to work, chatting about plot points and pacing with Chase, and buying silly supplies (“the board” is actually a really good exercise), maybe it’s just that finally now, with everything mapped out, the kinks just keep getting easier to work out, and the words seem to flow through so much more easily.
Other observations in the last ten months:
1. Google Chrome, as much as I’ve loved it, is starting to act up. I haven’t been able to write a blog post within Chrome in some time. Either it or WordPress are broken, or they’re angry at each other and ignoring the need to fix anything on either end of this.
2. Writing on the bus is a good time, but not as easy to exploit as I had hoped. There’s a double-edged sword depending on the time. Commute early and have a shorter travel time? Less time to work. Commute later and have a longer travel time? More time for typing, but a much higher chance of having to sit next to someone, which just awkwardifies the whole thing. That’s not a word. I don’t care. Overall, shorter time with higher chance of actually using it wins out.
3. I still have no idea what the golden publish time is. I tend to just let things fly, but I’m starting to wonder about scheduling these things to go out at specific times. Auto-posting to Facebook being broken sure doesn’t help matters. I’d complain about Google+ shutting down, but it’s been pretty much useless since launch, so that’s not so bad.
So here’s hoping I can keep up the pace and keep finding little moments to jump in and on again.
So this finally happened. Just a simple, one versus(?) one game that we didn’t actually finish. I subjected a friend to this, as he was oddly willing to participate. The rest of the group was caught up in a rousing conversation about anime, which was probably a better time than this.
I pulled out the rule cards and 10 themed decks. My friend picked the “A Team” Dragonball deck, probably the safest choice, though he had no reason to know it. Cards were shuffled, tokens placed, and the game began. It didn’t take long to realize this was a game built more like a task list. You needed to go scavenge things, then get items, rinse and repeat until some conditions were met. Unfortunately the utility of the cards and the basic rules don’t leave a lot of room for randomness, strategy, or decision making. Go to a location, grab a card, and resolve it, but none of the resolutions were particularly exciting.
There were two other times I played Ani-Mayhem on purpose. The first was long ago when I maintained an actual deck, using the rules of the old times, with a 99 card deck full of overpowered (to the point of being fully unnecessary) regular cards and severely under-powered disasters. The solitaire aspect of the game in combination with the freedom to customize the deck is really the core issue. You can make the game as easy on yourself as you want (there are plenty of extremely weak “major” disasters to choose from), and there’s no incentive to make it harder on yourself.
When I moved to Florida the “local” game store told legend of their own tournament of Ani-Mayhem players. I found the winner of that tournament and defeated them with a loop of Rescues and Angels of Mercy that allows an infinite loop of Wrath of the Eye of God destroying all disasters and other players’ things.
The next time was far more fun. I had constructed a number of theme decks of standard size, and the number of players was such that the disasters on the board became overwhelming, and Everyone’s After Me inevitably led to all of us finally losing after two and a half hours of flailing.
That was probably 15 year ago. My most recent interaction with the game and any other player of it was about two years ago, when I found someone in the Seattle area who had piles of Ani-Mayhem cards, and we both had cards the other needed to complete some sort of arbitrary goal.
Today, I pulled out the decks (ten decks, one for each series featured except for Oh My Goddess, which only had like three cards in the whole print run, and an additional “B Team” DBZ deck [warning: sound]), with streamlined rules, and it felt much like watching a reunion concert for a band that was famous years ago, only to realize that they’ve only gotten worse over time, and that in fact you might have mistaken that band for something else in the first place.
There is so very much wrong with this game. It’s wonderful, in a historical sense. Ani-Mayhem, having come out in the mid 90’s in the height of the first wave of companies trying their hand at mimicking the success of Magic: the Gathering, seemed to have very little idea of what it wanted to be.
Game vocabulary is inconsistent. Character stat indicators show up in places they don’t need to be, like Global effects appearing to have movement scores, or flash effects where the wording of the effect has nothing to do with the icon displayed. Words on cards are randomly highlighted for importance, regardless of where they appear. Flavor text may or may not be relevant to the game rules depending on what is written.
My personal favorite is the font. The font is horrible. Recoom is the prime example, as at first glance you might be convinced that his name is “Roooom.” The extremely loud backgrounds for them can make it painful just to read, and the white outline doesn’t do it many favors.
Oh, and health. Of all the character attributes, health is hidden. Imagine if in Magic: the Gathering Llanowar Elves (a 1/1) had 1 power, 1 toughness, and 1 of a hidden stat called “health” that was based on its printed toughness value, and the toughness value reduced the damage from incoming attacks. That’s how the Defense and Health scores interact in Ani-Mayhem, and it’s somehow both simple and frustratingly unnecessary.
Apart from all of the above, what I realize now that the game really suffers from is something I really only realized tonight. Almost the entire library of cards were designed based on the image or event in the series, rather than what would make an interesting card or mechanic. By trying to keep close to the spirit of the shows they were featuring, they made a game that, once you really got into it, was really quite bland. I can’t think of another card game where the art inspired the card rules, rather than the other way around, but it’s the entire basis of the game and why any given deck, even when restricted to single series, end up hitting a power threshold as early as turn one that stops any future decisions from being at all difficult. But at least they didn’t go the Dragon Ball Z card game route of screenshot roulette for their cards.
So why do all this, and what now? I’m likely to sell all of these, save for a few favorites I want to keep around in my little display of old card games from days gone by. As awful as the game was, this was a fun little bit of nostalgia to share in the suffering of. Time to purge this from the house and move on to something new, and like a writer or director, sometimes the best inspiration for making something new is to see just how poorly it’s been done in the past.
Bonus: In digging for images for this post I rediscovered ani-mayhem.com. While this fan site seems to have frozen (I mean, there’s not a lot of actual updates happening), I cannot fully express my horror at a link on that site leading to アニメイヘム.com. Yeah, you’re reading that right. I have no idea how they did that, but they call it “Ani-Mayhem 2010” and it’s apparently still being updated. Someone out there other than me still cares, it seems, but I’m finding that out far too late (and pretty much every other fan-made cards I’ve seen have been kinda horrible. Whatever the case, I’m tossing in my hat. Go on an keep chasing that dream, whoever you are. Surely there’s an Ani-Mayhem 2020 just waiting to get… whatever it is you’re doing to that.
I’ve got cats now, so let’s get that out of the way. Two brothers, both black, that we’ve named Mac & Cheese. They purr pretty much instantly on human contact, and really seem to think my foot is something to attack.
We’ve come to the last quarter of the year, a somehow sudden and impending end. Time is a powerful thing, moving out of our control, but given the right mental state it provides a powerful source of motivation. It’s amusing that we’ve cut it up into arbitrary segments, with titles and names and numbers. Monday of this week was the 1st of a month, and the first work day of a week, which makes some of us perceive it as a more important day than if the 1st fell on, say, a Tuesday. It’s this sort of odd power we have granted our calendars and our clocks over us that creates New Years’ resolutions, and of course The List, which I’ve been tracking, and not paying quite enough attention to for the last many months.
I’ve certainly not done well at keeping up with a number of what seem like the easy ones. I’m still pretty awful at keeping up with the movements of Facebook or Twitter, but I think I attribute that to my just not finding much practical use for them. I don’t know if I particularly need to be even angrier than I already am about politics at any given moment, which seems to be the lion’s share of what I see on either (along with all of the advertising I can do without.) My lack of time spent on these things didn’t, unfortunately, translate into a lot of time spent on anything else particularly productive. For the more important things, it’s easy to look back and see nine months that, from this point, seem mostly wasted. “So much more I could have done,” one might think.
My older, younger self would have thought just as much, but I find myself of a new mind. These three months are easily the best of the year, and a time when I find my energy to be at its highest. While I’ve learned to appreciate the summers here, my need for them doesn’t quite seem to match the native Pacific North Westerner’s craving for it. These next cooler, darker months have always been the sort I’ve preferred. It’s a different sort of appreciation of warmth, where I can huddle into coats and gloves and scarves and get warmth from man-made sources, which might play to some odd survival instinct I’ve never really had the outdoors affinity to put into any sort of practice. What I do have experience with in these colder seasons is that food tastes better, coffee seems more effective, and a drink seems to provide more warmth (albeit not a practically useful sort of warmth).
A fine three months, indeed. If you’re so inclined, go out there and latch on to whatever target you can: A first, a last, a holiday, a solstice, whatever works. For me, next year will be 10 years since my self-declared “Year of the Bear,” and I’ve a feeling it’s about time for another one. There’s time enough to strike a few more things off the list before then.
So apparently I had forgotten that I had linked my LinkedIn account to this blog thing, and the title of my last blog post probably subverted some expectations given the time and that particular flavor of social media stream. No, I wasn’t planning to quit my job, merely noting I was hoping to aim at getting something “out there” every two weeks or so. That was four months ago, so obviously I failed that miserably.
The last six to twelve months have been fairly odd. I like to think I’m pretty good at dealing with high stress on a single front at a time. There are essentially three “fronts” in this regard: personal life, work life, and my understanding of world events. One usually expects a little bit of stress from all three of these at any given time, but if more than one of them get into high gear I run out of steam pretty fast. Things on the world events front have been pretty horrible for the last two years or so, in case you haven’t been paying attention (I’ll likely get into this in another post). My habit of wanting to know what’s happening has not gotten along well with my hating pretty much everything that’s happening. This was at least manageable in my head in early 2017, but as work became an unpredictable roller-coaster is was a bit too much. In spite of my 2018 plans to keep up with at the very least a blog, I burned out back in March, but as things calm down at work, there’s room in my head for a number of things I’d actually like to do again.
So what’s “A Different Two Weeks?” This time it’s in reference to my recent vacation. A well-timed two weeks, at that, as it accidentally coincided with a role change at work. I’ve found vacations for a company where roles and ownership of certain domains are somewhat malleable tend to lead to coming back to what feels like a new job, and this is a pretty good time for that.
Like the traditional American home owner, I spent my vacation doing house things. Gutters were hung, a disposal was installed (and then fixed the next day), a miserable pile of bamboo and fence from the neighbor’s yard was cut down (with their assistance), shelf mounts were installed, planks stained, and a rattling fan that’s been annoying me since I bought it got fixed. All of this mixed in with dealing with the kids and an absurd amount of cleaning while Shoka worked on mostly kimono-related activities. By the end of those two weeks I was pretty well destroyed, but made an attempt to go out with a bang with a get together of the old work crew, which was an expectedly cathartic experience.
Unfortunately, just two days out from that, I managed to catch something that’s decided to hit me with a fever and stomach pains for the last 24 hours. I feel like I’m coming out of it, thankfully, but this does make me want to build in some recovery time for the next one of these “vacations” I end up taking.
In a world where some people seem to tweet every 45 seconds, it might seem strange that it’s hard to keep up momentum on something like this. I’m aiming to make sure I update this thing every two weeks or so.
So the last two weeks saw a few things checked off of the list:
Pokedex: I’ve completed the living dex, now ready to port into whatever future games are enabled for Pokemon Bank. The highlight of all this was certainly the shiny Lickitung, who finally made their way to Lickilicky.
Unstable Cube: I need to look through this again and see where I’ve apparently missed a few cards (the first attempt revealed an uneven number of packs’ worth of cards), but I’d call this done and successful. Managed to force get some friends to play a round, and while we only got to playing a single multiplayer round, things went as I hoped as far as entertainment value goes. Not every card in Unstable is a hit, as far as comedy goes, but there’s plenty of good stuff in there. Looking forward to using this thing more in the future.
Elves Deck: I’m actually unsure of where I want to go with this. In getting back into Magic I’ve once again found that the only format I really enjoy playing, apart from the randomness of drafts, is Commander. I think I might cross this off the list in favor of building a deck around a RG or URG commander, as those were the original colors for my old monster-of-the-day deck. The last really good time I had with elves was playing with the stock Llanowar’s Fury deck a few years back. Given that I have all the parts of that back I’m just going to call this one good and enjoy that I’m back into my old hobby.
Hopefully I’ll be back with more in less than two weeks.
So my birthday was a few weeks ago. The trip to Japan didn’t leave a lot of room for celebrating, as we spent most of our time over there being sick and taking care of each other. Shoka forced herself to muster the energy to go out and find me some cake, so that was nice.
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to settle in to my new age, as if that’s someone people actually did, and work has briefly calmed down to the point that I’m open to a few moments of reflections, it doesn’t feel too terribly different from any other year.
Thirty-five is a number of things:
Seven times five: “Every seven years it’s a whole new you.” Inspiring metaphor, huh? That’s probably nonsense, but on that arbitrary idea I suppose I’m now on James number six. The last one had a pretty good run.
Half of Seventy: I’ve often considered making it to seventy being essentially winning the lifespan game given my height. Looks like I’m half way there.
Early window into mid-life crisis territory: If Nick-at-Nite taught me anything about this, I’ll apparently get a sudden urge to buy a leather jacket, motorcycle, and then selfishly take a hiatus from family and work to ride around “soul searching.” Go ahead an punch me if that starts to happen.
In spite of these things, thirty-five isn’t celebrated as one of the many more important integers we reach in life. Mostly we care about things being divisible by ten, the legally important ages (sixteen, eighteen, and twenty-one), or the lexically important age of fourteen. Thirty is usually approached with dread, but by the time that year is over you should really be over your fears of being old, in spite of still being relatively young.
The most self-inflicted meaning it has for me, however, is it’s the age I always thought I was in high school. That was fully three Jameses ago, now. I was far more introverted then, full of all the teenage complexes that come from being too large too quickly, a combination of genetics and an uncurbed desire for carbohydrates and cheese. A superiority complex brought on by being a little too smart (as measured by my amazing ability to fill in the right bubbles when presented with multiple choice questions) did not help matters much. An adult of the era might have likely observed me as being mature for my age, but the reality was completely different.
There are people who say that high school is the best four years of your life, but all of my experience is to the contrary and the feeling mentally, at least as far as energy goes, is that I’ve continued getting younger since then. Seems like my mind is probably stuck somewhere between twenty-two and twenty-seven. I’m certainly in better shape physically, and hopefully that can continue to improve.
Not exactly sure where I’m going with all this, but things are going pretty well. I’ve got a lot of work to do and probably about three more good Jameses to do it with.