Thursday, May 30, 2002
Cheap, yes. Nasty? Well, we'll see…
Today after work Fiona and I are going to listen to a talk about a "Cheap Holiday Club". We're not sure what it's all about or how the people running got our number - dammit, I gotta start reading the fine print on stuff I sign! - but we like holidays and we apparently get some free/cheap weekend packages just for turning up to hear the talk. Well, I expect they'll put the hard word on us to sign up to something expensive, but Fiona's good at being tough when it comes to ruthless sales types, so we should be fine. The whole deal sounds a bit time-share-ish, which means they'll be wasting their breath, but if we can swing some decent deals out of it we may well decide to go along with it.
Then again, they'll probably start with a PowerPoint demonstration and that will be that. I hate PowerPoint demonstrations.
I don't know what I like, but…
New examples of the primitive cave scratching I call my art are up on the Knights Below web page. Yes, the only thing that moves me to draw these days is pressure from my roleplaying peers. Well, that and offers of cash money – or at least I assume they would. Anyway, the character name links at the bottom of this page lead to various specimens of my widely ranging freehand competence.
Sure, I could spend time updating this web page, but…hey, I really could spend some time updating this web page, couldn't I? Well, after the four hours last night of Photoshop/Homesite hell that it took to get that one Cardinal page together, maybe I don't want to get too ambitious just yet…
Wednesday, May 29, 2002
I'd be reprogramming guidance systems in Kashmir right now if I could muster the energy to care about that humourless, glacial, emotional wasteland of a movie…
…except for the bit when the muppet goes hardcore. That kinda rocked.
Tuesday, May 28, 2002
Attic of the Clones
Plan for the evening:
- 5:30: Arrive at pub, order first pint of Guinness.
- 6:25: Finish third pint of Guinness, leave pub
- 6:28: Settle into comfortable cinema seating in open challenge to George Lucas to keep me awake for the next 124 minutes
- 9:00 (approx): Express mild disbelief ("That didn't suck so bad"), slight disappointment ("That sucked worse than I thought it would") or uncontrollably hyperbolic outrage ("I hope Skywalker Ranch gets hit by a stray Pakistani nuke")
How sad is it that I feel obliged to ratchet my expectations to such a low point that I cannot envisage enjoying anything about this film, and yet will still willingly pay money to see it?
Oh well, at least Spidey starts next week. Midnight session, anyone?
Monday, May 27, 2002
Goodbye to The Diet
Saturday was the official end of The Diet, which we celebrated by dining out at huge expense for breakfast and dinner (lunch wasn't particularly necessary). We hit a restaurant within walking distance of home called Dijon. It was selected on the recommendation of Fiona's dad, the noted gourmand, and on the basis of the number of plaques with the words 'fine', 'dining' and 'award' nonchalantly hovering on the wall nearest the door.
Even without spending eight weeks in slavering anticipation of the moment when I would once again be able to eat whatever I damned well please, I would have considered that among the finest meals I have ever had. Sure, it was staggeringly expensive, but it was one of those occasions when you realise that really good restaurants charge that much for a reason. I've been burned by lousy or just plain ordinary meals from highly regarded restaurants before, but this wasn't one of those times. It's nice when a highly-anticipated experience actually surpasses your expectations, isn't it?
And as we were discussing on the slow cold walk home - albeit slightly tipsily – if we were so insanely rich that we never had to cook for ourselves again, we still wouldn't eat at a place like that every night. Having it so good all the time would just spoil the effect of a perfect night out.
…or is it?
Actually, we're pretty much going to stick to The Diet for a while, with some minor exceptions. Like, I'm going back to drinking coffee, goddamit. I don't care if caffeine addiction has an Arabican deathgrip on my circulation and lymphatic system, it's sodding winter in Canberra and I want something that will warm me and wake me first thing on a soulless grey freeze of a morning. Also, and don't think I don't appreciate the irony, I want to eat ice cream. But for the most part, the vegetables-and-meat-and-bugger-all-else basis of The Diet is pretty sustainable, provided we can allow ourselves the odd reckless addition of cheese or sour cream to a meal.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Not wrong, just mistaken
Well, I'm informed that my statement that the Spider-Man movie starts in Oz today was contained certain factual shortcomings. In fact it appears that it won't be on until the 6th of June. This comes as a deeply scarring psychological blow to me (the fact that I have to wait another fortnight, that is. Not the fact that I was wrong, which I'm used to).
Well, we got it together at last for the Delta Green game. It was quite an odd game – surprisingly awkward considering that Simon, Jimbo and I game together every single weekend, we've played Call of Cthulhu before and through John's game we've all pretty much honed our investigative/deductive gaming techniques to a finer point than they'd ever been before. And sure, I haven't GM'ed anything for a good while, so I'm apt to be a bit rusty, but even so I was quite surprised by the stylistic gear-changes we had working against us.
The problem started with me, no doubt – I felt strangely uncomfortable being in the driver's seat for the first time in months, trying out a new game (if not a new system). I procrastinated at the start, I allowed myself to be silly and self-deprecating and I read straight from the book – signs of the sort of lack of self-confidence that you see in an unprepared first-timer (an 'amateur', to be arrogant). Simon, in particular, took his cues from me and played for easy laughs and random distraction, although he came up with a couple of pretty insightful observations that weren't covered in the pre-written adventure (which is quite comprehensive). Jimbo was pretty focused, but he had the good luck to have taken the "Scully", a forensic pathologist character in an adventure that featured three major autopsy sequences, and even so he needed some prompting about a couple of obvious things.
Of course it was an introductory adventure and I wanted to get it wrapped up in one night, so I glossed over some details in the interests of expediency. I didn't really put much effort into establishing mood, mostly because it's the hardest part to achieve when you're in the throws of the Nervous GM Shakes. Another mild stumbling block, albeit one I actually anticipated, was coming to grips again with the minutiae of the Cthulhu system – sure, we've all played it a lot in the past, but a) that was a few years ago, and b) there are a lot of finer points in the system that suddenly become awfully relevant when an unkillable zombiefied Vietnam vet is coming at you with his scalpin' knife. And lastly, I do have to question my own commitment to making a good game of it, since it's no secret that right now I'd rather be playing around with the D&D 3rd Ed system - either in the buffed and polished revised Forgotten Realms or a setting of my own wacky devising – but that with John's Sunday 2nd Ed game now an entrenched tradition, the boys would rather play something different on their off nights. I can see their point: an all-D&D diet is like eating vanilla ice cream with the occasional chocolate chip and the less occasional piece of glass. But right now it's what I'd rather be doing.
All negative observations aside, though, it was pretty good, and we're going to keep at it and try to build it into a regular thing. One thing I have to work on, I think, is building in a few regular background characters and some new structure (a three-session adventure arc sounds about right to me). In other words, make the transition from shaky-but-promising pilot episode into regular series that gradually becomes popular.
Wednesday, May 22, 2002
It's been a fairly quiet last few days, or at least that's the impression I've formed through the mildly euphoric haze surrounding me since my lunchtime visit to the blood bank. I'm getting that not-quite-dizzy lightheadedness that I would normally have to pay six bucks for down at King O'Malley's, which is making everything seem cool and eminently unthreatening. Which would be nice, except that I have a hell of a lot of work I should be worrying about.
Lucas Support Efforts – An Update
No, I still haven't seen Attack of the Loons, and yes, I do plan to continue taking puerile and unfunny jabs at the stupidity of its name. Under advisement from Otherblog's resident critic, I plan to see it in its natural environment of a big-screen digitalled-up-the-wazoo, surround-sound cinemaximegama. Just not anytime soon: I need to be in a state of beer-fuelled vigour in order to get the full effect, and I am still resolved not to start going on benders until at least this weekend.
I am, however, becoming quite interested in a side alley of the Star Wars universe, to whit the Star Wars Galaxies massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMPORG), which will be kind of like a combination between a cantina freeform and a first person shooter (I may have talked about this before).
The interesting development I heard about this week is that the game will be available for Playstation2 and Xbox as well as PC, which means it will have roughly three times as many bloodthirsty munchkin Wookie Jedis running around as it would otherwise have. And I still wanna spend my entire life playing this and other forms of digital crack. Fortunately, this unsettling ambition remains academic, because I have neither PS2 nor Xbox, and the PC at home runs like a tortoise in traction.
And in other news about computer games I would probably have gone on the dole to play constantly if they'd been released when I was still nineteen, Neverwinter Nights should be out in mid-June. Even now, I could this very night spend just 12-15 hours downloading the Beta version of the design toolkit, which is incompatible with the Mac and almost certainly won't run on the PC. My path is clear…
Has its Hour Come Round at Last?
It looks like tonight we will finally get to play out a session of Delta Green. Unless, of course, we chuck it in for a carton of beer and the first State of Origin (called by Roy and HG on Triple J, of course).
Actually, you know, I think DG is gonna win that little tussle. But after all this buildup, this better not suck…
Just a reminder to myself that Magical Web-Slinging Tobey-Spidey opens tomorrow. In case I forget and have to go another day without seeing Willem Dafoe in way too much makeup.
Friday, May 17, 2002
Quote of the Day
The magic of the clones movie, as elucidated by magicdog:
"this is not a film to go & see if you wanna see lucas pull off a triumph... it may be a film to go & see if you just wanna see lucas pull off..."
Thursday, May 16, 2002
Define "fun" for me
Here's one: finding out that there's a promotion round on offer at work the day before applications close. I'm guessing the reason I missed it is that I was at home with flu two weeks ago, when it would have been in all the work bulletins, or else I just don't pay attention. So anyway, there I was burning away the not-quite-midnight oil, struggling to reinvigorate and make halfway relevant my unsuccessful application from last October, when I could have been standing in line for Attack of the Clooneys, or whatever.
In the end I didn't really do that much to change it, apart from putting in some new examples to demonstrate my so-called program management experience (now in its sixth big month) but I feel a lot better about my prospects this time around. Not so much because I think the application is especially strong, but because this time around I won't be competing against all the graduates, who spend an entire year being prepped and groomed for the promotion round at the end of the year. No, this time around I'll only be competing against the also-rans who couldn't get it up against the uber-grads. People like me, in other words.
But I could really use a bit more sleep. And this is the fourth Wednesday in a row that we've had to cancel the first Delta Green game. Guys, I think maybe we need to look at a less cursed night…
And I'm still not planning to watch Attack of the Groans anytime soon (I at least wanna hear how loud it rates on the Barkometer. Over to you, Toad.
Tuesday, May 14, 2002
You must remember this
I'd have updated Lexifab again before now, but I seem to have been strangely busy in the last week, for someone that doesn't seem to achieve much. I did finally fulfil a long-held ambition to actually watch Casablanca. Two observations: It's a great goddamn movie, though I personally think Bogie was better in The Maltese Falcon; and I was rather surprised that, considering I've never seen a sequence of the movie longer than a news soundbite, I knew probably about a third of the lines. It's apparently just that quotable (so quotable, in fact, that even Bogart says "Here's looking at you, kid" three times). And I know all the words to that song.
In other movie news, Sexy Beast is a dead-set quality flick with outstanding performances from Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone (the final few seconds of a film may be a strange place to put a defining character moment, but it works in a beautifully surreal way). On the other hand, La Spagnola is the film most misrepresented by its own trailer that I think I have ever seen*. Be warned – far from being a sentimental comedy with sad overtones, it is in fact an exercise in unrestrained misery from one end to the other. Not that exciting either, to be honest. For the same sentiment, I much preferred the at-least-it's-pretty-to-look-at The Claim.
Over the seas and far away
I'm officially heading off on my first overseas junket, a little over three years after joining the Government's overseas aid program. Mind you, if that sounds like a complaint, I was at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for nearly five years, and I never went out to the reef once while I was working there (though I did spend a day island hopping in the Whitsundays looking for illegal tour operators, which was less exciting than it sounds). Anyway, I'll be joining a project review mission that will essentially involve five days of non-stop meetings in Manila, sunny – nay, sultry – capital of The Philippines, in the middle of June. Most likely I won't leave the embassy except to eat and sleep. Ah, the exotic tropics, eh?
And until then, I have to get inoculations for all the exciting equatorial diseases I could pick up while I'm there.
* Okay, except for the ads that made The Phantom Menace
look watchable. Those practically demanded litigation of some kind.
Thursday, May 09, 2002
Unintended house hunting
On the way home from work yesterday, Fiona and I impulsively dropped in on an open house inspection of a really nice place in Ainslie. We've walked past it quite a few times and been really impressed with the gardens and general layout of the place. Inside was even more impressive: spacious kitchen, study with a fireplace, large main bedroom with ensuite, three smaller bedrooms, vast dining area and outdoor barbecue setting, and a rumpus room completely separate from the rest of the house. It was great fun wandering about somebody else's (impeccably tidy) house wondering what we would do with the place if we bought it (which we probably couldn't even if we sold our current place and won the Lotto). Converting this, renovating that, buying tens of thousands of dollars worth of new furnishings the other…
Dear lord, save me. I'm having home ownership fantasies…
Tuesday, May 07, 2002
Okay, okay, I couldn't think of a decent title, but it's late and I just found out (probably months if not years after everyone else reading this) that the greatest-bar-none-Australian-comic–of-all-time, Platinum Grit, has its own website. This is as good as news gets, on a Tuesday (well, unless they interrupt this afternoon's rerun of The Simpsons to cross to live footage of Big Brother House burning to the ground). Huzzah, it lives, huzzah! Nils and Jeremy, huzzah!
Uh, what was the question again?
I've just upped and bought the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting for D&D. Another purchase I'll probably not get to use in actual gaming anytime soon. But I've been wanting to read it for the longest time just to see what the so-called fuss is about, and there's no arguing that the design is spectacular, so if nothing else it at least looks pretty. And weighing in at about 1.5 kilos, I'm pretty sure I could kill a large dog with it, if I wanted to. I don't, but I could. Hmm, mmm, mmm.
Monday, May 06, 2002
From the "Irony Is Not Just a Dinner Setting on the Periodic Table" File
No sooner do I make sarcastic mention here that all of the signs indicating winter's arrival than I contract influenza. No doubt there's a lesson there. Spent three days last week more or less unable to move about or spend forty-five comfortable minutes in a doctor's waiting room (to take a couple of practical examples).
The most important lesson here was that the flu is not the same as a cold. I was completely sniffle-free, but every joint and vertebra felt like it had been stuck in a cyclotron and turned up to 'Waah!'. There were some other unpleasant symptoms as well, but I'll not dwell on those. And did you know that the degree to which daytime TV sucks is in precise exponential proportion to how painful it is to pick up the remote control?Hot Chilli Fever!
Saturday night was the long-awaited Hot'n'Spicy Chilli night with Fiona's co-workers. Justin (lead chilli chef) has been planning this for a long time, and was a little disappointed in the timing of The Diet, which excluded us from eating (amongst many other things) foods in the "Hot" and/or "Spicy" categories. The proscription is apparently due to the sensitivity of the average carbohydrate-starved stomach, so to hell with it: in the end, we decided just to chuck it in for the night and eat whatever was on offer. Hang the consequences.
The dish of Indian kofta meatballs we made was actually legal, apart from the four chillis in it. Nothing else on offer was, but who cared? It was mostly pretty great, and wine, rhubarbs and icecream, and (bliss!) coffee and chocolate truffles for afters were all greatly missed bonuses. Nothing like going without luxuries for a while to make you truly appreciate them.
I'm glad my biggest problem in my life at the moment is a self-imposed absence of cappuccinos. Really puts things in perspective. Or, I dunno, maybe it doesn't.