Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nuggets of Wisdom

A couple of hits:

I have been reading about critical thinking in board games. The starting point for this research has been chessmasters as it seems to be the game with the most extensive discussion about how to improve your game (versus the designer games I play which are cool but rather new when compared against the classic game of kings). The revelation from this delving has been the importance of physical exercise. For a mental game like chess, it was surprising to see the importance chessmasters stressed on daily physical exercise and a good diet. A sort of base for the pyramid of their skill. A healthy body, follow by rigor puzzle/exercise of your game, followed by lots and lots of playing. These words of wisdom could apply to any task really. The end of this is that I have begun exercising again. Eating better to follow.

The previous post eluded to my exhaustion. One of the things I have missed because of this situation has been my reading. I am lacking the mental power to engage with the hard books I like to read. I was struck by this thought by two annoying comments. The first was a comic by Penny Arcade with a comment of doing something just to be reminded how smart one is. The other is the flippant comment of my boss that "Reading is for suckers". The former made me doubt, the latter made me annoyed.

Finally, the writing is happening. Slowly, with some mental pain, but I have broken 21,000 words on the novel. The reassuring thing for me is that I still know the story has legs to make it to novel length. In my previous attempts I get sense around 5,000 words and find I don't have enough to say, or the story's idea has fallen apart. This is not happening this time and I am quite excited about it.

I hope that we can keep this up.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tired...of Waiting

I am not sure how Real Estate agents deal with the long waiting game of selling property. It is a very mentally taxing experience, as you really don't have much you can do (apart from some cleaning) but wait for someone to put in an offer. I guess it's less stressful when it is someone else's money, but now being in the process I am not sure how anything is sold or bought. I am very much looking forward to moving in November.

The selling experience has not been helped by having a newborn. My son seems a lot easier than the first time we had a baby.Still, a bit of a sleep debt accumulating here as well as the added complexity of baby's older sibling needing attention. Again, looking forward to being in the house by November.

I should clarify that these are "background noise". There has been a lot of happy things going on this Fall. Another book club meeting happened, attended a baby shower in an amazing hidden treasure of a house, board games, birthdays, etc. These have been welcome distractions from the previous mentioned stresses.

Still, I expect to be more coherent by the end of November. Baby son will be sleep training and will have his own room. My daughter will finally have a basement, backyard, and bedroom to play in and not keep constantly clean (as is the case right now in the condo. It is rough to have to constantly maintain a place that is lived in but doesn't look lived in). Just a couple of weeks to go.

Today I hiked on a trail just North of my work for the second time, going further than the last. It was a wonderful walk, winding through a natural area before ducking under the 401 and flowing into a formal park and suburban neighbourhood. Listening to Enya, I found myself at the top of the hill that commanded a view of the Don Mill area, with its towers floating in an ocean of trees. The hum of highway and a cold sun completed the scene. I need to give myself a couple more of such moments to carry me to November.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

The End of Summer

My daughter is going back to school on Tuesday, and there is a sense that we are moving back to a schedule after a very busy summer. Our second child, a boy, was born which was (and is) a stressful and sleep depriving experience (it appears every child of mine has to have a birth story). We also bought a house and are in the process of selling our condo. The time has been swept up in baby caring, daughter entertaining, condo staging, storage locker filling, house planning, leaving August a blur of not sleeping and work. My work has been busy as well, but I think it might be more the fact I have a low energy level (or rather more energy demands), but I think I am getting my stride again.

That said, I haven't really been writing, drawing, or even reading. This is starting to change with each day as our son sleeps longer and we have started to build a routine again. I think Z going back to school will help a lot with that, as four year olds seems to crave patterns. Drudgery is a foreign concept to them.

In my lazy mood I have been consuming some videos on the You Tubes. Mostly game instruction videos (Radho Runs Through, Watch it Played, Tabletop, etc.) and some Web shows like Geek & Sundry and Comedians in cars getting coffee. The last one is a surprising initially, until you realize it is essentially a conversation between smart funny people filmed in a New York stylish way. Highly recommend.

I can honestly say that a full life is a good life. If I cut back on the You Tube, get a bit more exercise it would be perfect. That is what Autumn is for, my favourite season. Let September begin.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

A stretched out moment

To start with good news I am now a father again. My son has joined the world and so we are in the chaotic period of adjustment where we get use to our newborn and our newborn is getting use to the world. This time around seems that my son is more inclined to fall into a pattern than my daughter. It's a little early to predict, but it seems my son is the moon (calm and following some pattern) and my daughter the sun (ever present, full of energy). Still, it is early days.

The emotional journey has been far more exciting than what I have been upto physically. We have been watching Netflix (Sherlock from the BBC) and the Rick Steve's Europe DVDs I gave Steph as a gift. So far we have worked our way through Spain (which we hope to go to next year), and are almost through Paris. Rick Steve is a rather dorky fellow, but he is an excellent tour guide creator and we find each of his shows an excellent start to learning about a place.

I have putting in some solo board game play. Ticket to Ride and Kingdom Builder on the ipad and physically playing Urbion as well as reviewing my netrunner cards. Ticket to Ride has always been a challenge to me as it is one of the few games Steph will play and I am terrible at it. The ipad version is giving me a chance to get through a bunch of games and hopefully improve.

And although I am tired, I can honestly say I am relieved the birth is over and that we are in the process of settling in with two kids.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Drops of God

I have been obsessed with a manga comic series called Drops of God. It is a story of two young men competing on finding the greatest wines called the Twelve Apostles; a list created by one of the characters estranged father. It is a weird balance between educating you about the world of wine and the personal journeys of the young characters.

What I find bizarre that the series has drawn me in as I don't drink wine, spirits, or alcohol of any kind. Yet, I am entranced by the series' world of vintage, colours, texture, grapes, soil etc. The poetry of writing might be what has won me over, built around the idea that a memory, emotion or image can be captured in a bottle, to be poured into a glass and be recalled with training and passion. The artwork helps as it is in the minimalist line work anime, but with realistic proportion.

I recommend it the series. I would be interested for someone who actually drinks thinks of it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Before the Storm

With baby preparations pretty much done, I find we are mentally in a holding pattern. As though we are reluctant to start anything as a newborn will soon disrupt any projects or plans we might have. I should be clear that this is not a bad thing, but rather a simple declaration of how life is. The first couple of months is a state of simple goals, although several people are impressed that we do all the things we do with one child and believe us crazy to plan to do things with two. I would argue that child learn by example, and seeing their parents experiencing life and wanting them to engage with it is a good thing in my book.

I feel this big paragraph is a bit of an excuse, as I have been rather passively consuming culture then actually making stuff. It is a common topic in this blog, I really need more material. (smile). The current sidetrack is indie video games. I have recently discovered steam (an online video game distributer) and a good review site called Giant Bomb, which has made it easy to find a collection of indie games to my liking. There is something about a game made by a small group or an individual. The "art" seems to come out more, the voice of the creator is stronger, the artist's vision, their struggles and aesthetic are more at the forefront than in a Triple A game from a major studio.


What am I playing? The current game with the most time is Lone Survivor. A horror survival game with a pixel/stitched aesthetic and dark eerie tale of a single survivor trying to survive in a monster filled city. I am not one for horror movies but seem to quite enjoy playing horror video games. It might be the control issue, that I don't mind the scares if I have some control over the character's action. Still, it is very dark as you basically live in squaller and not die. There is an undercurrent of psychological trauma and back story that I am interested in discovering (when I am not trying to die).


The other frightful game I am playing is Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which physically scares me. You control a man who has woken up with no memory in a ruined mansion. You then wander poorly lit rooms trying to figure out how you got there and not meet a shadow that seems to pursue you. It is a very creepy game, I have never had such an emotional response to a game. Good stuff.


Finally, the last game is Thomas was Alone. A wonderful puzzle game where you move different colour squares and rectangles through mazes. What makes the game is the wonderful characterization of these squares/rectangles by the narrator. I have found myself more attached to these silly shapes than characters I have experienced in movies/books/tv shows in the past year. I highly recommend this game.


This is enough of my work avoidance. Time for sleep and will attempt to motivate myself tomorrow. :)


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Superman man of steel

It has been a couple of days, almost two weeks actually, since I saw the new Superman: Man of Steel. It is a grimmer take on Superman, which has resulted in a harsh battle on the Internet about whether this film was a betrayal of the ideal of the comic and the ideal of Superman. The internet has been quite harsh and acidic enough that it gave me pause before deciding my final thoughts.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of the movie. It was visual stunning and asked some interesting questions. Not directly, but in a subtle way. The movie interacts with the superman mythos as well as the world we live in. The emotional reaction pushes me to why I am reacting.

There is a lot of idealism in the movie, or rather conflicting ideals. What was interesting was that Superman had to navigate these ideals and some times he failed and other times he soared above. What impressed me the most is that some of the choices didn't have a perfect solution, just the least worse option.

There is also matter of restraint. That fixing everything us not straight forward or necessarily desirable.

Technically beautiful and probably the best superhero fist fight I have seen in film. Also a lot of solid acting.

At the end of day, Superman is a culture icon that when anyone makes a movie, comic, book etc. Its about cultures clashes and this is where you asks questions. If the movie makes you angry , you should take a step and decide why you are anger, and what that says about you.

Apart from entertainment, what more you can want from a film?

Sunday, June 16, 2013


It is weird to go to the science centre so much now. I wasn't raise in Toronto so the science centre, like the zoo, is a far away attraction that you went to once as a field trip. Now it is a short drive or bus ride away. Plus it is not that pricey when you get a membership.
The exhibits change so slowly, but it is interesting to see them repaired. When you go once you assume the place is falling apart, when it reality it is in a state of slow repair.
As an older person, you wonder if the building is perhaps not properly designed for its function. There is a lot of empty space which is unused. I am not sure if it is an sign of a grandeur plan for the site or actual bad designed.
Still, it is a fun place and speaks to the ideas of Science! The idea of exploring and working to understand the work.
It is also impressive that how the staff entertains the hordes of children that descend on them. In their white coats they work hard to entertain and inform. I wonder how successful they are.
I fund myself inspired to learn more but that is not a hard thing to do.
I am glad that I can take my daughter to such a place. Even if the food is pricey.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Head Space

Another month has passed, I am no Samuel Pepys.

I have had a lot in my head recently. Which I realize is not that big revelation to anyone who knows me as I am a brain oriented kind of guy. That said, there has been a bunch of social stuff going on (go check out my game blog) as well, so i haven't been a hermit.

What's going on upstairs? Nothing super productive.

1. Strip Search is winding up with the two episode finale starting next Friday. As I previously menitioned, this show has touched me in a way I never thought a reality show would ever be able to do. The manufactured drama was low in the web series which probably kept me from tuning out. The main draw fro me is that it was about drawing comics. It has inspired me to draw which I had let lapse for the past couple of years. Watching the prelude to the finale (aptly title "A kick in the pants") really spoke to me that I should just do my comic and get it out there. My great hope is that the inspiration from it gets me going. You heard it first, webcomic to come. :)

2. Reading. I have had a bad habit recently of watching a lot of instructional you tube videos. It has the illusion of being productive. I don't know if it is the increase in sunlight of summer, or if my brain has become bored and had its full and wants something new or "harder", but I find myself you tube weary.  And so, I have moved back to proper reading (well beyond the newspaper, but you can only read political scandals for so long then you realize you need to step away). My first book was a bit of a disappointment (book club book), but I am now working on a couple of volumes and it's weird how your brain switches when you go from passive watching to active reading. Hopefully for the better.

3. Moving - I am switching floors at my office and I have to say that my dislike of moving has not changed. A nightmare of going through one's workplace to see all the trinkets you have accumulated to try and give you're office a comforting feel. The silver lining is that I am moving to a window office and can enjoy more sun. Although I will see a lot more of the parking lot. :)

4. Visiting friends. Finally saw my friends in London and see their wonderfully renovated house and more importantly hangout. Although we did see a horrible movie (Safe Haven...Avoid!!!)

After all of this I have been in a bit of a torpor. I have been very uncreative. I hope to shake it off this weekend. Need to get some sun, exercise and good food.

I think I might try to do some more themed blogs, or research quick posting. Maybe I can do it through twitter or something. I do have a cool smart phone (muhahah)

All right. That's it for now.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Through the window of the oven

I have recently been obsessed with, of all things, a reality show.

It is an odd experience for me as, to be frank, I am not a fan of the genre. To be more honest, I find most reality television unwatchable. I am not a fan of manufactured drama; the bizarre editing to shape people in unnatural ways. The whole process caters to quick judgements, cruel people, gossip, and taking pleasure with messy spectacles. It is a part of the celebrity gossip news world that does not appeal to me.

It makes it all more surprising that I find myself sucked into a reality show. It is a web series called Strip Search. The guys behind Penny Arcade placed twelve inspiring webcomic artists in a house together over two weeks and ran them through art challenges for prizes and to avoid elimination (which is to create a comic strip in 90 minutes to be judge by the creators). The winner's prize is $15,000 and one year working out the Penny Arcade studios (one of the most sucessful webcomic business in the world).

I think there are a couple reasons the show has drawn me in. One is that I love comic art, the art form I have loved the longest (born out of childhood love of super hero comics, that has evolved into a love of graphic novels of all types). I love strip art and read a lot of webcomics (the 21st century equivalent of the funny papers) over the course of the day. So a show following twelve web artists to see their different art styles is a pleasure.

Another reason is that I can consume the product of my favorities, right now. The artists all have websites, prints, books, and strips to consume. Unlike the other shows, they are a group of professionals already making something that is easy to access, versus other reality show that have restaurants I will likely not make it too, fashion I will not wear, etc. Comics are easy to get a hold of and read. It makes the show more fun when you can see what they are capable of and still follow them after the show.

Finally, the editors of the show did a good job of treating the contestants fairly, not twisting them too much. I read the interview that the editors of the show wanted to make sure none of the "losers" were "unhireable" afterwards (so there was effort to avoid train wrecks). Although you don't get a full story (each episode is only 20 minutes roughly), there isn't an attempt to make "villains" and "drama". If the show has any villains, it is the creators who are slowly destroying the wonderful house of art and friendship they have inadvertently ushered into existence. (If the editing could be trusted)

Should you watch? I do recommend checking out a couple of episodes, but more importantly, I recommend that you check out all the artists. The Internet offers a lot of alternatives to the stale newspaper funnies, its a matter of finding them. Strip Search helps that process.

I would conclude with saying that I don't think this is a gateway show for me to enter the reality tv world. This is anomaly that has fallen into my world. Also, the show is at the halfway point (all previous episodes are available on the show's website), and so my final verdict is still outstanding. The pudding is half cooked and much could go wrong. But for now, I like the smell.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quick post

It has been one of those weeks where I have thought of a couple of blog topics, but haven't had the sense to put them down in any substantial way.
The only thought I have some small things. I have started running, got new bedroom furniture, and got my haircut.
I realize this is a non post. More substance to come.
S out

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Roller coaster

Sitting down after a long day, actually a long week, I find myself reluctant to type. I promised to try and post twice a week, so here goes.
It is funny how as I get older, or maybe since I became a dad, that tired comes in different flavors now. I seem to remember being tired in university and high school was pretty much was either mental tired or physical exhaustion. Now there seems to be more categories to apply. Happy tired, emotional drained,  achy tired, too tired to sleep, tired of queuing, tired of routine....etc.
I have been developing a theory that despite the young adult drama my life was actually pretty easy and this new menu of weariness is because I have a more engaged life. A sign of experience that my body struggles more to cope.
I like this to the alternative to the thought of it just being the fact I'm old. I would concede that I should exercise more.
This topic hit me because I struggle this week with sleeping, IKEA, projects at home, writing, work, the news cycle, organizing some events. It didn't really hit me until I tried to explain a game to someone at game night. I am a little brain weary.
Fortunately next week promises to be a bit better. Still I think I will start going to go to bed earlier.
I am done. Good night

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring is here!

Toronto might not have the warmest weather, but the birds have arrived, the trees have decided to bud, and squirrels are attempting to find food. It is also very, very wet. Therefore Spring is here!

When I was younger, Spring was not one of my favorite seasons. I am one of the autumn people. That is not to say I'm a Halloween sort of guy, rather I am a lover of falling leaves, air with that dry, cold nip, the rustling floor of a forest, fall festivals, and the underlying thought that the end of the year holidays are approaching.

Spring has recently been re-evaluated in light of my daughter's arrival. A child sees the seasons differently and they shape and warp your life accordingly. Old maxims fall away as you are forced to deal with new truths. Winter is now judged more harshly; the park is not available as the sun sets so quickly; multiple layers of clothing bring weariness and battles; cabin fever afflicts all people under five. Oddly, the start of Winter is great with many happy memories, but by the end of January, children seem to decide that the cold season has gone long enough. These new facts have given Spring a different look in my eyes. I now find that I look forward to the longer days, the diminishing layers, the green parks, the farmer's markets.  Spring and Summer are simply easier for children, or rather their parents.

Another plus for Spring is that I have learned to cook, and farmer's markets become alive again in Spring. I find excitement in the colours of berries, veggies, and fruit in the market. I realize that I have been getting these things in the grocery store (and in winter it is my favorite part of the grocery store to go to), but there just is more of it, and it's fresh.

In short, I raise a glass to Spring, but remain steadfast in saying that Fall is still the best.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What have I been upto?

I can honestly say it has been productive. I can't even say that I am working away from the ipad. I have been doing some experimenting to move from a passive consumer of content on the tablet to a creator who engages with the greater world. It was not a straight path, especially with the setting up of twitter feeds, but I feel I am moving forward. A brief recap of the Grande experiment!


I have been experimenting with the blogsy app, which is a very excellent blog poster and I recommend anyone to pick it up if they have an ipad. I currently am working on three blogs and one tumblr, but I can do all the posting through blogsy. It allows you to drop in pictures, videos, and links with a gesture, and tends to take away the excuse that the tools are in the way of the art.

The other writing has been done through iwriter. A smart, simple interface where your word processing experience has been distilled to the essence of writing; getting letters typed onto a page. All distractions have been taken away and so one is left with the work being the only hurdle to face. Currently, I am crafting through a novel there. My first novel project of any substance since Jericho the Ungermly Germ (which quietly begs for a rewrite....maybe in summer). About 16,000 words in right now and emotionally I feel I am almost done the early setup and am ready to get into the main plot.

I am taking a page from Becky, and am going to attempt to send out more fan letters. There is a lot of things I like, some being by artists early in their careers, and I should really let them know they are awesome (which is probably a good life lessons-- you should always find the awesome in others and remind them of it). I plan to do one this week for Lexxy Douglas, an illustrator whose work is amazing and who created a wonderful strip in the last elimination round of Strip Search (the only reality show I have ever watched).



The biggest play/experiment that I have been getting drawing on the ipad. I have been mostly using two apps, Sketchbook Pro and Paper. Whereas Sketchbook Pro is quite expansive

To see where I'm at, it is at one of my other blogs, Trying Art with Friends , personally I feel I am still going through my awkward stage of drawing on the ipad, but I have found the ipad drawing tools exciting and look forward to getting better with them.


The last one will have no presence on the Internet, but we have been actively cleaning out condo in preparation of our second child. I am a pack rat and an interest moth, so this is a very stressful process as I find memories or tools for desires of my past that are hard to part with. That said, I didn't have as much trouble getting rid of the old receipts and to do lists, its more the books and idea papers are harder. The compromise is that we are going digtial for books (1,000 digital books take up no space) and converting my notes and writing to digital format. It will be the "grinding" task of 2013.


I have been a little busy to get any major game sessions, but I have got some Love letter in, as well as a couple games of Hive. I am trying to convince my brother to run a game of Twilight Imperium. I will be going to Snakes and Lattes later this month probably.


Finally there was a crusie in there, an uptick of work at work, a GGK book signing, and general living. I would say I have been fairly productive, despite some side tracks watching You Tube television shows, reading twitter feed, plants vs. zombie, and Bastion.

That the start of Spring in a nutshell, a promise of more posts (as always)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Many Days since car sickness

It's been a week, but I can safely say that I am no longer car sick. Actually I am quietly sitting at home relaxing after a long week. It has been a bit of a slog getting back in a normal state of affairs. Nausea really is a problem when you try to do mobile blogging.

Whistler was excellent, one of those places you feel you could live if you had tons of money. Mountains are better to experience in person. I am also a sucker for a town where you can walk everywhere. I am sure it is different for people who actually live there, but as a tourist you tend to believe everyone in Whistler skiis about there day.

Aside from the expensive food, I was about to do a tree top walk in the valley between the mountains. What was more exciting was trying out biathlon at the Olympic park. It's a combination of cross country and rifle shooting. I was surprised how much I like cross country skiing and how I turned out to be a pretty good shot. Mind you there is no recoil on the biathlon rifle, so it did have a video game field. It is one of my favorite sports to watch during the Olympic Games, and having now tried it I now have a greater appreciation of the distance involved.

In constrast, the tree top hike fit like an old glove. I always like a good hike and how could a hike on a series of platforms snaking through the tree tops of an ancient forest go wrong? One side fact that I need to check out is that the guide said Whistler is trying to become a sustainable community 2020. They seem to take the environment more seriously here, but it might be due to the fact there ecosystems are still intact versus Ontario's struggling green.

The oddest part of my Whistler trip is that I didn't do any downhill skiing. What is also surprising is that I don't feel I missed anything by not going down the slope. At least my daughter did in her ski school.

I recommend checking it out.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Surviving whistler

Long time since last post...blah blah. Right moving on. Currently sitting on a bus heading back to Vancouver after a couple of days in Whistler. It has been a fun and physically tiring holiday. Did cross country skiing for the first time as well as biathlon.
bus moving again. I will post my thoughts later.