Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Noteworthy

It's been a busy few weeks. First of all, Darling's surgery and recovery. Rough stuff. We muddle through. As our Youngest Son says, though, she doesn't really give herself time to heal, but launches forward into numerous tasks around the houses.
Which brings me to the second point. Note that I said "houses" and you now know we are moving. We've lived in this same, wonderful house for almost eleven years, though we didn't move into the master bedroom until a year ago. It's a beautiful home in many ways but it's just too big for us. We want to reduce our bills, our taxes and our insurance, so we're moving to something (quite a bit) smaller. This means packing, packing, packing. Then moving. Then unpacking, unpacking, hey - we brought too much stuff. I have no illusions that we will pare what we have enough before we transfer it. I hope we do so after we move it all.
The new place has a study, though. That's cool.
Before we move there are a lot of things that need to be fixed at the new place. AND back to the first point. Darling is busy managing a gaggle - a crowd - a conclave - a passle of subcontractors and potential subcontractors. We have some floors to do, some tile work, some painting, some plumbing, some fixing, closets to remodel, doors that need replaced, ceiling fans installed, shower heads put in. The list is long. The closet thing is going to be a problem.
It doesn't look like the pool table goes with us, so I guess we sell that. I think Darling is sad, but she doesn't like any of my other options.
On top of that, our Youngest Son graduates from High School this coming Friday, June 1, 2012 (let's make sure we hard code the date in there). He's off to college in the fall. That's assuming he can pry himself out of the world of Diablo 3...
Our Youngest Daughter just recently graduated from college. She's going back in the fall.
So things are a bit hectic, my blog posts suffer, and I seem to be perpetually tired lately.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Diablo the Third

If you're a gamer, then you know that I refer to the recently released Blizzard game Diablo 3, which came out last Tuesday at midnight. This game has been in development for years. Unlike The Avengers premier, I didn't stay up for the midnight launch. My youngest son did.
Not only did he stay up for the launch, getting the game from a local game store at midnight, but he then stayed up for hours trying to logon and play the game. I guess he gave up about three in the morning and then slept for a few hours. He then was sick from school for Wednesday. Lack of sleep contributed to his health problem.
By the time I managed to logon for a few minutes on Wednesday night he was far, far into the game. He has since finished D3 on Normal mode and is progressing with his monk through Hell, the second level of difficulty. After that he will no doubt play Nightmare and Inferno. Whether he plays a Hardcore character or not is still questionable. In Hardcore, when your character dies he is no longer playable. I'd be done with the game if this was always the case. I've died at least once with each of my four class characters.
Four? Yes, I'm a bit fickle. I started with the Monk, but realized I would need more space in my personal stash for my characters. It cost ten thousand gold to upgrade with seven more slots (they say fourteen, but most items take up two slots, so that's sort of a cheating thing on Blizzard's part, isn't it?).
Realizing that my Monk had over three thousand gold after just an hour of play I thought I might be able to create another couple characters and get to that ten grand pretty fast. I created a Wizard and had four thousand pretty fast. Yahoo! So I created a Barbarian and before I even knew it he had the requisite ten grand to upgrade my chest.
The gold is shared among all your characters. Just saying. I didn't know that.
So then I wanted to play a cooperative game with my son. Diablo 3 makes this extremely easy, and (for once) gets it exactly right. When someone joins your team the monsters you fight become stronger and harder to kill. When someone drops off your team, they become a bit easier. My brother and nephew did this a few times over the weekend and it worked like a charm.
So my son and I both started new characters and completed the entire Act I of the game on Normal mode. This time I created a Demon Hunter (as in hunter of demons, not a demon who is a hunter) and he created a Witch Doctor. We both ended up with a lot of gold and at about level twelve after defeating the Butcher. Okay, my son defeated the Butcher. I died in about the first two seconds. In my defense, it was the first time I'd seen the room. Stay off the fire grates. I told my brother this and he did so. I died in that encounter too (got trapped in a corner), but at least my brother resurrected me for the rest of the fight. My son just soled the Butcher and let me watch. Funny guy.
I am not a big fan of the Witch Doctor. He walks funny. Yeah, that's enough for me not to play him. I like the Demon Hunter, but need to get smarter about playing him. I think he takes a lot more skill than the Monk, who can basically wade into a group of monsters and shred them. The Barbarian rocks, literally. Like the Monk he can take on a group of monsters at once. Unlike the Monk, he can jump right into the middle of them. Then he just tears him up. From a graphic perspective, the Barbarian is a hulking brute, even the female versions. If he was green you'd think you were in an Avengers movie.
I am not sure at this point, but I think the Wizard might be my favorite to play. I took her (yes, I made her female - I thought I might as well go with a girl character since the guy looks like a girl anyway) all the way through Act I and defeated the Butcher pretty easily. For a lot of that time I carried a wand and a very good shield. Yes, a wizard with a shield. How cool is that? I like to put some protection around her with Diamond Skin, go into a group of monsters, freeze them with Frost Nova, then explode them outward with Wave of Force. A couple of runed Arcane orbs and most of the time the battle was over.  Sometimes I had to run around a little, rinse and repeat after the cooldowns. Tons of fun!
My brother pointed out that Act I in normal is basic training for how to play. You're not supposed to die. He's right, of course. He is a gaming adept, so he knows what he's talking about. When he and I first grouped up we were a couple of Barbarians about town, knocking things apart and gathering gold. I have to say I got a lot of satisfaction out of that. Sometimes I wish real life was like that. But then I'd have to look like the Barbarian, which might be okay for me.

Steampunk

I have become a big fan of the Steampunk genre.
If I were more crafty, I'd probably be a big fan of creating devices also, like this amazing lightning gun reported on smartplanet ™. Rob Flickenger, the maker of the gun, shows how to make the gun on his blog post that he was inspired by the graphic novel Five Fist of Science. As I said, I'm a big fan of Steampunk now, and this book seems to be a terrific read, but at over $65 I'm not about to go and buy it. Feel free to use the link and read it yourself, though (yes, I am an affiliate!). Let me know what you think.
My latest read in the genre were the first two books in The Magnificent Devices trilogy by Shelley Adina, which started with Lady of Devices and continued with Her Own Devices. I am fascinated by the author as well. I was curious when her next book was going to come out, so went to her web page, then to her blog. She's quite busy with appearances at different Steampunk conferences and expects to release the third book in September of this year (that will keep you from having to do the research on your own). I've since lost the link to her blog (couldn't even find it on her web page). Her short bios mention that she wrote her first novel at age thirteen, went on to obtain an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) and loves to travel and rescue chickens. We write what we know. Read the books and you'll know what I mean. They are young adult fiction, but I guess I'm always going to be young at heart. Especially if it means I get to read a good story.
I also recently read the first two books of The Society of Steam. Written by Andrew P. Mayer, this series also has a strong female lead character. I liked the first book, The Falling Machine but realized it was only setting the stage for the better second book, Hearts of Smoke and Steam. That one ended on a cliff-hanger, so I'll have to wait and see what happens.
Of course, some try hard to be another Sherlock Holmes, and do a decent job of it. I enjoyed The Steampunk Detective, by Darrell Pitt. His main character wasn't Sherlock, and the mystery wasn't that significant, but it was a good read. A popcorn book, I'd call it.
I still love my science fiction, fascinated by the machines that might someday become reality. I guess it is the same pull for Steampunk - a fascination for machines that might have been.
As long as they are good stories, I'm game. And maybe I'll make a lightning gun!
Rob Flickenger and his ray gun. Awesome!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

Our pics coming soon

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. May your children heap well-deserved praise on you this day and continue to be a joy to you in the years to come!
There is so much to cover that I probably won’t get it all in this post. That’s okay. I’ll need something for the seventeenth, which is when I'll post the travel story. Come back then. It's a good one.
Darling is doing okay after the (final) surgery.
She has amnesia. She does not recall her brother at the hospital on Thursday. That's okay. She was out of it and they were giving her pretty strong medications. She only vaguely remembers him bringing her home of Friday. That's odd, but perhaps residual medication is the explanation and no cause for consternation.
Apparently Saturday is a bit of a blur for her, too. I wasn't here, but she had friends with her the entire time, so she was okay. Where I was and how that went is the next blog post.
She thinks she is doing okay. She tends to skip her pain medications unless I insist, which I do. Here's the bit I find a tad disturbing.
She doesn't really recall much of Sunday. I got up early, as did she. I got ready for church, helped her with her shower and all that stuff. I didn't realize she was planning to go to church although our youngest son did. He and I have a morning church routine. Since he prefers a different church than my home church, we go to the early service together. It starts at 8:15, but we usually run a little late. We ran late Sunday, but we were there before the sermon - I mean message. Is it the same thing in non-Catholic churches? After all these decades, you'd think I'd know... I digress.
We also stop at McDonald's to get breakfast on the way home. I won't say that's my favorite part, but it is a nice way to round out the morning. This time I mention to him "We'll just pick up an Egg McMuffin for Mom."
He responds, "It'll be cold by the time she gets back from church."
"She's not going to church!"
"She was dressed like she was going to church. She was getting ready to go to church."
I gulp. "Call and make sure I should get her a McMuffin."
She didn't go to church, so she got a sandwich for breakfast. Here's the funny thing. Darling thinks she didn't go because I woke her up too late to go to church. Huh?
Her daughters came over for lunch on Mother's Day. Fortunately we had a lasagna in the freezer and I can cook those, or it might have been slim pickings. They brought flowers and some vegetables. They stayed until about five, although Son-in-law had to leave a bit early to run an errand. They watched some movies. Darling remembers that they came for lunch and brought flowers and a cute card and stayed a little while.
I went and took a nap after talking to L where we talked about graduation and how tired she was.
Darling took the two tubes out - by herself, as I was taking a nap. Oy!
I don't know if her daughters noticed the tubes were gone. My oldest son called in the evening and wished her a Happy Mother's Day, but she was exhausted and pretty much asleep on the couch at that point.

So Happy Mother's Day to all mothers out there. I hope it was a good one - and I hope you remember it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jet Lag


Some days I'm just tired. Today is one of those days. I have nothing enlightening to impart, no snappy patter, no amazing movie review.
Not the most revealing
Darling had surgery yesterday. Doctor Villa said it went really well. Since he is a wonderful plastic surgeon I expect Darling now has the breasts of a twenty-two year old Greta Garbo. I expect nothing less.
Darling did come home with a drain tube on each side. It isn't the same shock as the first surgery and the drainage amounts are much less. Still, I am hoping that she will wait until next Thursday's appointment and let the nurse take the tubes out rather than do it herself. Once was enough for me. She's in a lot if pain but she's home.
I'm not. She sent me home last night to get some rest. A storm came through at three in the morning and it was almost as if Ike had returned to visit us. I tossed and turned. I don't sleep well without Darling anyway and that just made it worse.
I am sitting in the airport typing my blog post on my phone. I thought of bringing my iPad but I don't use luggage for an overnight trip and, as light as it is, it becomes cumbersome after a few hours. I discovered that yesterday as I did a light trial run on carrying all my tech tools at MDAnderson waiting for Darling's surgery to finish up.
So my phone, a change of clothes, toiletries - all in one of the myriad pockets of my Scotte Vest. It's a tad weighted down but not too bad. Oh, and L’s graduation present which is smaller than a bread box, sparkles in the sun, and doesn't eat.
They just announced my flight will be more than an hour late arriving here. Oh boy. It hasn't even lifted from the Dallas airport yet.
I wish I was a better traveler. Still it can't be as rough as the return trip from Africa last year.
(I had to do the formatting and picture inserts after I came back home - and got some rest. There’s a continuation and a few updates to this post. Coming soon...)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Updates for May 8, 2012

Sometimes I don't have much to say, so a blog post seems like a waste of time. I mean, does anyone really care how things are going with me?
That's not a fair question, but there it is anyway. We all feel that way sometimes.
Breakfast of Chumpions
This is a tough week. I decided to drop by Mickey D's on the way to work and pick up a Numero Dos breakfast, large Coke. They gave me a stack of napkins. They must have watched me eat at some point. Y'know, the hash browns from that place absolutely soak the napkins with grease. If I was a healthy-type person I wouldn't even eat them.
I will though. And … loving it.
As I was leaving Mickey D's I made a left turn right after a big truck and almost moved directly to the far right lane. Good thing I didn't. There was this really nice car there that might have objected.
It is a stress-filled week. I can't do anything without thinking about Friday Thursday (just informed that they changed the day, or we had it wrong) and Darling's (final) surgery for the breast cancer. This one is to finish the reconstruction, with just a few tweaks in the future. It was scheduled for March and Darling got sick, so it got rescheduled for July, which seemed a long way away. At some point MDAnderson called and said they had a cancellation for Friday, May 11, Thursday, May 10, so there it is.
DOT COM!
Turns out, our youngest daughter graduates from Abilene Christian University on Saturday, May 12. Normally that's a bit over a seven hour drive. Darling will not be able to go and I have no plans to drive myself. I'm not a good driver.
So when I found out about the schedule conflict I bought a plane ticket and got a car and a room. Darling insisted she would be fine and I must go. I want to go. I want to stay. Right now I just want the week to be over. (And I'm blessed that the day is changed. It should be more manageable.)
I couldn't get a room at my normal motel. It was already booked for the weekend. I'm staying at a different motel and don't have a clue where it is, but it isn't too far from the University. Well, in Abilene nothing is too far from the University. Not really.
So my youngest daughter graduates from college. I do have a present for her, but I can't say what it is. She is my only regular reader. I hope she likes it though. I've been saving it for a while. And, no, it isn't a pony.
Then there's a bit of stress over our youngest son graduating from high school. He's done with it all mentally. I just need him to buck up and get through the last few weeks.
I'm proud of him.
He has the gift or prophecy, which I had to explain is as much a burden as a gift. That doesn't mean he is a Prophet and doesn't mean he can see the future. It means that he will often receive divine insight about what is written in the Bible, inspired insights into the lives of those around him. He will often get irate over the injustices perpetrated by people and the wrongs they (seemingly) get away with. Sometimes he will receive instructions to do God's work and he won't be given any good reason. That last one is the tricky one.
He felt he had to ask an isolated young man at school to sit with him and his friends during lunch. Apparently it was a strong enough impression that it really bothered him. Actually, when he told us about it was when I was pretty sure he had the gift of prophecy. So he did ask the young man to sit with him and his buddies.
The guy refused. That wasn't what my son expected.
What he wants is for his actions to make a difference. What I had to explain was that the obedience did make a difference, but he might never see it. Then again, he might. We never really know.
That's my rumbling for today, and my posts will be irregular again until things calm down at the house.
Oh, and there's the house thing: the finding, the buying, the moving.
And Mother's Day coming up, right after the trip and right after the surgery. Darling better find some flowers, that's all I can say.
Just one more thing.
This too shall pass.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Avengers



The movie "The Avengers" opens here in town tonight, at a midnight showing. How can I talk about anything else in a blog post? I'm too old to go to a midnight showing. You have to buy the tickets early, show up at the theater early, then start watching the movie at midnight. Two hours and twenty minutes later you have to drive home, get a little sleep and then go to work and function. I'm just too old.
I'm totally doing it.
One of my buddies is a Major in the reserves and he isn't going to be in town this weekend. This will be his only chance to see it. (That's my basic excuse.) My other buddy just thought it was a great idea.
We actually bought the tickets Monday and the IMAX screen edition of the midnight showing was already sold out. I just want a good seat in the theater, even though it will be packed. I don't want to sit in the first few rows, where you have to scan left and right to see the entire screen. Ideally I'd like those seats in the front of the riser section. They have more leg room and a rail to put your feet on.
I don't think I can get a drink. There won't be a good time to leave the theater during the show, and my bladder is the size of an acorn now that I'm older. Let's not discuss that further.
I might get popcorn. But then I'll want a drink. Darn it. Dilemma.
Loved the comic. When I was younger and had the money I would buy Spiderman first, then Avengers. I was there for the entire arc of Scarlet Witch and Vision, with the reappearance of Wonder Man. Really, I was so disillusioned with Vision's behavior after Wonder Man returned that I quit buying the series. I probably ran out of money, too.
I've read dozens of articles on the movie. I read a number of interviews with Joss Whedon, the director. If you don't know the name, he's the man responsible for Firefly, Serenity (as well as Buffy and Dollhouse). I'm a fan of the crew of Serenity.
I liked both Hulk movies, though I can agree with some of the negative comments on each. I really liked Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America. They were all great movies on their own, and perfect build-ups for The Avengers. We don't have much information on Black Widow and Hawkeye, but I have high hopes for both.
I think this might be the biggest single movie opening of all time.
I might get popcorn after all. Maybe a small drink.

Still seeking caffeine

UPDATE: Well, we went. The place was packed. Some costumes. A pretty good Captain America, a very green hulk and one Black Widow who was at least the right shape in her outfit.
Not sure midnight showings are the thing to do for a fifty+ person. A bit on the rowdy side. Glad they let us sit and wait in the theater seats. I wouldn't have been able to stand for the two hours awaiting the start of the movie.
To sum up the movie in one word: AWESOME!
Oh, and I did have a drink. Due to my special theater card I got a free upgrade to a large coke. I only took a few sips. I need the soda more today than last night anyway!

FINAL UPDATE: As of early Monday morning The Avengers brought in $200.3 million - the highest total for a weekend opening ever, eclipsing Harry Potter which had $168 million. Superheroes trump magic.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Luna


SuperMoon comparison

When the moon becomes full this Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 11:35 p.m. EDT it will be the year's largest full moon. Scientifically this is because the full moon this month coincides with the perigee of the moon to the Earth, its closest approach. They call this the SuperMoon.
Since the moon's close approach differs by about three percent, experts note that this is the nearest perigee of the year as well. They say the moon will be sixteen percent brighter than average. That's a lot.
Conversely, the moon's apogee (furthest away) coincides with the full moon on November 28th this year, so that will be a much smaller moon. That's okay, too.
I've always liked the moon.
I'm not the only one who likes the moon. Sometimes when Darling doesn't think I'm listening I hear her whisper these words from a German children's game, and I know she's thinking of (and missing) her Mom.
"Der Mond ist rund, der Mond ist rund. Er hat zwei Augen, Nase, Mund."
("The moon is round, the moon is round. It has two eyes, nose and mouth.")
Don't get me wrong. I like the sun too. The moon, though, has always had a special appeal to me. I guess that makes me a lunatic.
When I first moved away from home in Michigan in 1980 I really missed my Mom. I was busy, surely, but there were many odd moments when I wondered what she was doing. In the days before cell phones I would often forget to call when I got home, so many opportunities to say "hi" to her were lost, and I'm sorry for that. I wish my Mom knew how special she was to me.
There were some nights, even some of the those odd nights when I was working late at the plant, that I'd look up and see the moon and smile. You see, Mom told me something after I was here for a bit. She said she would often look at the moon in the sky at night and whisper these words:
"I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me."
She said she would think of me, knowing we could see the same moon. That always made me feel better, too.
I didn't know that these words were from a lullaby until I did a Google search while writing this article and hit this blog post.
So the moon is special to me. This Saturday, when there is a supermoon for the year, I will look up and think of Mom. And I'll miss her, because this moon doesn't shine on her any more.