Monday, October 30, 2006

Land of Confusion

Lots of stuff going on, so I'll just dive in. The expected euphoria of the end of Daylight Saving Time was somewhat spoiled by my number one son deciding to vomit around 3:00 am. I really need to have a talk with these kids, "Look, we have an obvious scheduling problem here. 3 am just isn't working for me could we reschedule your normal illness onset time, preferably to some time when I'm awake? Or better yet while I'm at work?"

I finally tackled the leaves on Saturday. I was putting it off because I had hoped some kids would come along and offer to do it. In fact there was a group of kids who came by earlier when about 20% of the leaves were down. I said they could rake what was down, and asked them how much they wanted. They told me to name a price. I hate that. So I offered them $20. After raking up the 20% they must have decided that it wasn't worth it because even though they promised to return when all of the leaves had fallen I never saw them again. It ended up taking me about four hours, and as I recall the final count was over a dozen bags, once the leaves were off I mowed the lawn for what I hope is the final time. I was reminded of what a mollycoddle I was when a blister formed on my hands after only a couple hours working the rake.

I'd never actually seen the word "mollycoddle" before, but the word I wanted to go with, "poofter" has such clear homosexual connotations that I decided against using it, and "mollycoddle" came up when I ran wimp through the thesaurus.

So as I believe I mentioned in a previous blog I started Tad Williams "Otherland" series, four books each averaging about 700 pages. Since getting through 1000 pages on the vacation I've only managed to get through another 200 which is somewhat depressing, particularly since I'm really into the story and would really like to see how it ends. Perhaps even more depressing is that I already took one crack at the series and ran out of steam 1/3 of the way into book 3. I don't think that will happen this time, at least I hope not. One thing that has impressed me on the second read through is how good the writing is, perhaps because having already read it once I'm free to focus on the language. Or perhaps it's because I've read so many things recently that were truly awful (like my blog for instance).

I've started working on my Dreamblade Warband for the SoCal 10k. I'm up to version 3 already and it doesn't look much like the original concept, but hopefully my core concept will remain in there somewhere. With only three weeks to prep time is at a premium. Speaking of which Neverwinter Nights II a game I've been waiting a couple of years for comes out on Wednesday. Oh and did I mention that I'm actually trying to get some business done at SoCal that I should prep for, and don't think I've forgotten about the 1600+ pages I have left in that series I'm reading. Things are going to be tight...

Also, apparently, there's not much love to go round

Friday, October 27, 2006

Daylight savings time

I whine a lot, no more than a lot, incessently, but I shouldn't because actually things are going pretty good. Despite an unusual amount of crap, work is not bad. Baxar's War came out today, and I already picked up my two cases during lunch. Neverwinter Nights II comes out on Wednesday, etc. But perhaps best of all Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. I know that shouldn't top the list, but for some reason getting an extra hour of sleep is always just want the doctor ordered. I could go on, but I've found through sad experience that talking about how good things makes my blog virtually unreadable, so I'm going to toss in a funny quote I heard on "Scrubs" last night:

Morning, class. As residency director, it is my pleasure to have both Surgical and Medical personnel here with us today. In fact, in this room we have enough brain power to light up a city! Not a real city, mind you, but definitely a tiny ant city whose government has recently passed a series of stringent energy conservation laws.

One hour is all it takes

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back from Park City

I don't recall if I mentioned this or not, and I'm far too lazy to pull up my previous entries to check, but I took the last couple of days off (actually I weaseled some comp time) and went up to Park City with the in-laws and stayed at a condo. My primary goal while I was up there was to read, obviously I still had to eat and sleep and help out with the kids, but whatever free time I had was spent reading. In the end between when I arrived on Monday evening and when I departed this morning I had read 1000 pages. Not too bad, but on the whole a little disappointing, particularly since that only put me 1/3 of the way through the 2nd book in the four book series I had selected for the trip.

At this point it should go without saying that there were some problems while I was gone. One of the problems blew up into a huge inferno of angry e-mails and bitter recriminations. I was caught in the crossfire, and even fired a bullet or two, but the real artillery came from one of the managers in IT and someone in marketing. Before the smoke finally cleared I had spent 30 minutes in a meeting with my boss and his boss in a somewhat vain attempt to figure out what the hell had happened and how to keep it from happening again. I was never in any trouble, but the whole thing was profoundly... unsatisfying. One of those experience which makes one wonder if the job is still worth it. It was in the midst of this weekness that my brother-in-law asked me what it would take to lure me to his company, I wonder if he could see the blood in the water?

Wounded and treading water

Monday, October 23, 2006


For as long as I can remember I've sought to bring some semblance of order to my life. In it's earliest incarnation it was a schedule. Homework from 8-10 pm, Shower from 6:30-6:40 that kind of stuff. After I read the "7 Habits" by Covey it morphed into a mission statement, and roles, etc. At times I've had New Year's Resolutions, Five Year Plans and a spreadsheet called Overlord. In general the tread has been to continually simplify things. My tendency is to try and do way to much, and inevitably whatever system I've come up with collapses under it's own weight within a few weeks, a few months at most.

So from these two principles of simplicity and sustainability (really two sides of the same coin) I had the epiphany that led to my most recent system. The problem with sustainability is that eventually my will flags and/or I become bored, so how does one get around that? ...make it a habit! One would think that this whole habit idea would have come to me back when I read Covey, but I'm slow to pick up on stuff. From there the idea of simplicity flowed pretty naturally. It helps that I've spent the last decade systematically reducing my expectations to a managable (some might say miniscule) level.

So here's the system: At the very beginning I pick an activity I want to make into a habit. It has to be something small, and something that's very specific. For example my first activity was "Make a to-do list every weekday and one for the weekend." Now most people will tell you that a straight to-do list is not the most effective method for managing tasks or time, but I don't care, making the to-do list more effective is a seperate habit, even doing things on the to-do list is a seperate habit (though that generally happens anyway) at this point all I'm interested in is a simple narrowly defined action that I can do a over and over again until it's habitual.

In addition to the activity I come up with seven things I can do to facilitate performing the activity often enough that it becomes habitual. Why 7? Because it's a mystical number... Actually it's just a number I happened to pick, and it may go up or down as I refine the system. Finally I come up with some standard for success, some way of knowing when it's gone from a potential habit into an actual habit.

A week later I add another habit, and the week after that another. You get the idea? Actually that's a trick question because once I have three potential habits on my plate then the plate is full, and at this point if I want to add a new activity I have to retire one of the old ones. And I can only retire an activity if it's become a habit, because then I can retire it without fear that I'll stop doing it. If none of the three activities on my plate are habitual yet, then I don't add a new habit, and there's also a potential that I'll retire one activity and pull another one out of retirement, because I've been slipping recently, rather than add a new one.

So anyway that's the system. I have fairly high hopes, but then again I always have high hopes at the start...

Another in a long series of attempts to make responsibility palatable

Friday, October 20, 2006

No Gruesome Details

So I had "the procedure" yesterday. The "prep" was awful. As I mention in the title I'm trying to avoid any gruesome details, but in addition to a clear liquid diet for all of Wednesday (8 ounces of fluid/hour) there were some very powerful laxatives involved. I have no lingering pain, discomfort or even memory of the actual procedure, all of my complaints and problems come from the sedation.

I mentioned to them that the sedation I got with the endoscopy knocked me on my butt. So they looked up that procedure and found out how much they had used and said they would use less. As it was the nurse still told my wife that it was taking a really long time for me to recover. They even let her back to help me out, which they normally don't do. I remember more this time, though I still had to be taken out in a wheelchair. Fortunately we'd done valet parking so my wife didn't have to leave me in the lobby to drool on myself.

They gave me a basin when they released me, which is good, because each time on the way home when the car braked it woke me up and I felt like throwing up. I did eventually throw up on the walk into the house. Then I laid down and went to sleep. I woke up briefly at 3-ish, but after about 10 minutes I decided that I needed to go back to bed. In all from the time they administered the sedation I think I must have slept for around 7 hours. Even today I feel a little bit hung over (I've been told I can't make any major decisions for 24 hours).

Now there's a guy who can't hold his liquor

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The whole ugly story

I'll try to keep as much of the geekiness out of this story as possible, but I promise nothing. So I had known about the Dreamblade 1k Tournament for quite some time, and for most of the time I would say that the majority of the energy spent on it was in the service of convincing my friends to come along with me. Once I had done that I had to find them a warband. I think that's where problems started to arise...

I came across a great little warband (we'll call it the "Appease" band) that looked fairly straight foward to play, so I gave it to one of my co-workers to try out and he promptly beat the band I was planning on using for myself twice in a row. As you might imagine this cast me into some serious doubt. In retrospect I think it was just a couple of unlucky games on my part, but suddenly I doubted whether I had selected the best band. What I should have done is examine the games and see what had gone wrong, did I suffer from unusually bad rolls, had I made any bad moves, was there a hole that needed plugging in the band itself? Instead I went back to a square one...

Perhaps it's incorrect to say I went completely back to square one, I mean I was only considering bands that had done well in previous competitions, but I was considering all of them. As late as the week just before the match I was still trying to decide between four. There was the Appease Band, the Chessmaster, the Deathtrap and the WPRA (Worker's and Peasants Red Army). Appease was getting a lot of play because my co-worker was practicing with it, and it seemed to do pretty good. Chessmaster was the gold standard that had been around since the game was released. Deathtrap was the hot new star. And WPRA was what my friend had won his 44 person 1k with. I wasn't that excited about Deathtrap because it was a complicated band to play and I didn't have a lot of experience with it. I figured everyone would be playing Chessmaster (and indeed of the four finalists there was me and three chessmaster bands). So that left it as a choice between Appease and WPRA.

So I played a game with me playing Appease and my friend playing WPRA (the friend who had won his 1k with it) and the idea was whichever one that's the one I would play. It was indecisive... WPRA won, but if a single roll had gone the other way Appease would have won. Then I thought well there are two edge tournaments this week I'll take one to each and whichever does better. As it turns out the one in Provo didn't happen, and Appease won the one in Salt Lake. Of course WPRA won a previous Edge in Salt Lake, so...

The final blow happened at that last Edge tournament. The competition was really light, and I think that's what finally swung me. While WPRA is probably a better band it's more sensitive to luck, whereas the Appease is not as sensitive to the luck of the dice. With my assumption that the competition would not be steller I got into the mode of making sure I didn't lose rather than trying to guarantee that I won, which I think is a bad mode to be in (particularly in retrospect), and minimizing the luck factor played right into that.

So the morning of the tournament I decided to go with the Appease band. (That sentence right there may sum up the tournament). When I got there a kid I had seen at the previous tournament, but not the night before came up and asked if he could borrow a scarab warcharm, the single most valuable piece in the initial set. I didn't want to, but at the same time I didn't want to be a jerk, so I told him he could borrow it on the condition that if he won any money he would give me $10.

The tournament ended up with 18 people, some had driven in from as far away as Bozeman, Montana. This meant that there would be 6 "swiss" rounds to determine the top four players and then the top four would compete in a single elimination tournament to see who the winner was. My very first game was against one of the friends I'd brought to the tournament, which is a sucky way to start. Even suckier is that his second game was against the other co-worker... Pretty much as I expected the Appease band dominated 3 of the 6 games. On other game had quite a bit of weirdness and the other player managed to go up 4-0 (and later 5-1). Before I totally shut him down. The other two games were against Chessmasters... I should have expected that they would be there... I should have tested the Appease band against them...

In any case, although the Appease band seemed to start of strong, it just couldn't deal with the movement abilities of the Chessmaster. Losing the first time to the chessmaster was annoying but certainly not fatal. When I went up against another one in the 6th round, and it contained my Scarab, that was downright infuriating... And it only got worse when I made it into the final four and found out that I was facing the same guy again. Remind me to never lend my pieces to my opponents. And of course the $10? He didn't have it right then, but he swore he was good for it. So that was it... I made the cut into the top 4 and got $100. But perhaps the most frustrating part of all is yet to come.

So I called my friend that had won his 1k with the WPRA and of course he was mad that I hadn't used WPRA. He then casually brought up another band which was on the verge of winning the Chicago 10k which was also happening that weekend. I told him I'd never heard of it and he was surprised, thinking that I had. So he showed it to me and I could immediately see that with that band I would have stomped all over the chessmasters and won that tournament (yes I know that sounds enormously conceited). And he hadn't told me about it because 1) he wanted me to run his band, WPRA and 2) he thought I already knew about it.

So that's the story of Saturday. As I said before most people would have been overjoyed to make it to the final four, so I should quite complaining (trust me this is the last of that). Overall it was a lot of fun, and I met some very cool people.

Dreamblade complaint free at least until the 10k

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Weekend

Well I'm sure everyone wants to know how I did at Saturday's tournament... Well the key thing most people want to do is "finish in the money" that is finish high enough that the get some cash. To do that you have to be in the top 4. Well I didn't win, but I did do that, so I probably shouldn't whine. Of course beyond that there was a bunch of unlucky coincidences and bad decisions on my part which kept me from sleeping on Saturday night. I was going to rehash it all here, but I think that would just put me into another spiral of self-recrimination which probably wouldn't be healthy. Maybe later...

Not looking forward to Thursday

Friday, October 13, 2006

24 hours away

Well the Dreamblade tournament last night was a bust. I called the store on Wednesday to ask them when it was and the guy said 6:30. Turns out it was at 6:00 and at that point they only had two people so they decided not to have it, and those two left. So when we showed up at 6:20, that would have made 4, which was enough to hold it, but oh well... So me and my buddy did play two games while we were down there, I won the first and he slaughtered me on the second. I got what was possibly the worst combination of spawn rolls possible for the band I was playing.

The trip wasn't totally worthless. Previous to making the journey I figured, based on what I saw on the DCI site, that the Provo Dreamblade community was pretty big. After talking to the store owner for about an hour (and the fact that the Edge tournament before the 1k they couldn't come up with enough people to even hold the tournament) it looks like it's pretty small. His estimate was that maybe three people might make the journey up. So at this point my attendence estimate for tommorrows tournament is 10-20, whereas before it was 20-30. Also I had my Noble Dragon down there and a bunch of people wanted to see it, because no one from Provo had one.

I also had a very interesting conversation with a kid (I'm guessing he was 10) who was there. He wanted to know if Dreamblade was like Magic (the Gathering). I told him it was much better, mostly to see how all the people surrounding me who were playing magic would react. He wanted to know if it was more expensive. I told him that individual minis were more expensive than individual magic cards, and someone chimed up with "What about the Black Lotus?!?" And I clarified that I was talking about current minis and current cards. And the kids said, "Yeah the Black Lotus goes for like $2500." I retorted, "Yeah and it was printed before you were born, focus kid!" I then showed him some somewhat disturbing minis (a snake with a soul in his belly, a monster looking thing eating a brain) and told him not to narc on me to his mother. I ended by telling him that Magic had been around forever and it was much to late to get in on it, but Dreamblade was still young and if he really wanted to make a name for himself that was where he should go.

The important thing is to have fun

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Out of control

You ever get in those situations where you feel like you're horribly busy, but that you're not getting anything done? Like you're driving 100 mph to nowhere? That's kind of how the last few days have felt. It seems unlikely to improve anytime soon, since I've decided to go to an Edge Tournament tonight, tomorrow night and then the 1k on Saturday. I suppose that in a certain sense doing all this preperation before hand will make a poor showing on Saturday even more disappointing, but I think that in general the affect has been to make me more calm about everything. Not that I should let something like this ruffle my calm in the first place. I guess the one thing I have to be careful about is that I don't end up wearing myself out, particularly since there's a cold going around the family.

I'm still reading Eldest, the 2nd book in the Inheritance trilogy, it's not as good as Eragon, but it's not as bad as people have said either. It is a lot longer so that's part of the slowness. I think the reason some people have complained is that the action is pretty slow and much of the book is taken up with exposition of a sort. But since this exposition goes a long way towards revealing the nature of the world and since I'm always interested in that sort of stuff it's not as bad as it might have been.

Oh, and I almost forgot one last thing I was going to say. So another plane hit another high-rise. And that high-rise caught on fire and didn't collapse. So I'm just waiting for some conspiracy theorist to use this as further proof of the controlled demolition theory of 9/11 and completely ignore the fact that it was a little dinky 4-seater with it's own parachute.

On a road to nowhere

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Call it off!

Well I went and donated platelets today, and it turns out that my hematocrit actually has come up a little bit (which is good I suppose otherwise I wouldn't have been able to donate). I'm half-tempted to call the doctor and tell him to call everything off. Though I'm sure that would just make my wife worry even more...

The movie I watched was called "Inside Man", and it was actually quite good. Though as usual with these sorts of movies the language is pretty bad. But as far as interesting twists go this one did really well. And of course Denzel and Clive Owens and Christopher Plummer all did a great job. Overall it was nice to take a break. Particularly one that I felt I deserved. I've been working on a side project for the last week or so, and it was not only the first of that sort I'd done in awhile but also the last I'll be doing. So it was aggraviting from both ends on the one I had to re-familiarize myself with some stuff, and on the other side I just wanted to get it done and behind me.

But now that that's done I can focus on getting ready for the Dreamblade 1k tournament on Saturday. Okay that's not the only thing I'll be focused on, but it will certainly be one of them. Particularly since I haven't yet decided which warband to play. Overall I'm pretty nervous. I'm currently the #1 player in Utah for the somewhat arbitrary reason that I was the only person from Utah to play in the GenCon 20k tournament. So for what would seem a very silly reason I feel quite a bit of pressure going into Saturday. Because of the number of points on the line at the 1k whoever wins will almost certainly take over the #1 spot...

Well there's more that can be said, but I have more to do before I can call it a day, so I better end here.

#1 Dreamblade player in Utah, for now

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Answer

I appreciate all the people who guessed what I was thinking. John was the closest, he just missed one key component... the key thing I'm looking for is that it was funny, that I was hoping that someone had seen me do something stupid, because even though it was stupid it was funny as well, and that it illustrates how I will trade humilation for humor every time. Well perhaps not everytime, but enough to show that humor is a higher value for me than dignity, at least my own.

I would have posted the answer yesterday, but the power was out the entire day at work, and so I spent most of my time wandering around in the dark. That and I had my annual physical. I've noticed the last few times I've donate platelets that my hemotacrit has been dropping, it's gone from around 46 to the point where last time they almost didn't let me donate (38). Also I guess the labs I had done yesterday showed that my red blood cells are smaller. So the doctor thinks I might have a slow bleed and since I've already had an endoscopy he has decided that he wants me to have a colonoscopy. You can imagine how excited I was to hear that. So two weeks from yesterday is when they scheduled it for. I'm sure that there will be a funny story after that as well (see how I tied the two paragraphs together?). If nothing else I'm sure my reaction to the valium should be good for a chuckle or two.

Don't worry, it's probably nothing

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Funny Movie

So I believe I mentioned that I was forced to move to a different cube. Well as you can imagine there are times when one's on autopilot and you end up walking into the wrong cube. Well fortunately for you the guy who's now in the cube has a motion activated camera set up, and so he sent me a short movie of me walking into the wrong cube which I will post for your pleasure. A short technical note, it seems to work best if you save it to your computer (desktop) and click on it from there.

Ross on autopilot

Now after I realize I'm in the wrong cube, you'll notice a pause. I'm curious to find out if anyone knows me well enough to figure out why I paused. Oh and for those that are curious the book that I'm reading in the movie is Eragon. You may have heard of it, they're making a movie out of it. It's the book written by the 17 year old wunderkind, so I had previously avoided it out of intense envy, but since they're about to make a movie out of it, I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about. Well while I was looking into the second book I came across a review of the first book which really sums it up:

In "Eragon," we meet the title character, a fifteen-year-old boy, being raised by his uncle in a rural area (but his name isn't "Luke"). Eragon happens to find a dragon's egg, and a beautiful, blue dragon hatches, and chooses him as her Rider (but this is not Pern). The egg had been magically hidden by a beautiful Elven princess, Arya (not Arwen), just before the servants of the evil king Galbatorix (not Sauron) catch her and imprison her. Eragon does his best to care for the young dragon, but the king's men come and burn down his home, and kill his uncle (whose name isn't "Owen"). Eragon leaves his home village, to draw the king's men away, with an old story-teller, Brom (not "Obi-Wan") who is really a dragon Rider in retirement (and never was a Jedi Knight). Eragon makes many friends, and ends up living in a stronghold of those who oppose the Empire, er, I mean the King.

This person also goes onto say, "Christopher Paolini's first book, 'Eragon,' was highly derivative and unoriginal, but I still liked it...In 'Eldest,' there is no originality, and there is very little action." Most of the reviews of the second book are like this. So one might think that I wouldn't pck up the second book. But because of my jealousy, I'm even more excited about the second book than I was about the first!


Monday, October 02, 2006

ADA Abuse

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has to be one of the worst pieces of legislation every passed. However when you tell people this their reaction ranges from calling you a fascist to disbelief that you could be so heartless, so one quickly learns to just keep ones mouth shut. However today I came across a story of ADA abuse which was so egregious that I could no longer remain silent. The NFB (National Federation of the Blind) is suing Target because their website is not accessible to the blind.

Now in the interest of balance it's only fair to point out that this request isn't as impossible as it first appears, mostly they're asking for the alt tags used for images to be more useful. But you have to ask yourself where does it stop? Apparently for the NFB, no where. As I was doing a little background reading on things and apparently the NFB sued airlines and the federal government because they wouldn't let blind people sit in the exit aisle of airplanes.

I know that on some level all of this (with the possible exception of the exit aisle thing) seems like a nice idea. But what people have such a hard time understanding is that what any governmental regulation means in the end is that if you don't put more usable alt tags on your images we're going to use the threat of violence to force you to. Is this really one of the rights in the constitution?

It's all about the guns