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Monday
Dec312001

LAN party

michael and ronnie


Welcome to the last Blatherings of 2001!

I'm somewhat bleary-headed today, partly because I'm still recovering from Luisa's and Reid's LAN party, and partly because I caught some kind of bug. Don't think I'll be doing much partying tonight.

The LAN party was great; many thanks to Luisa and Reid for hosting it! For those of you not familiar with the term, a LAN party is traditionally a gathering of people who hook their computers up in a local area network, and play games until their eyes bleed. Sleep deprivation and junk food is also considered an essential element of the true LAN party.

The original quintessential LAN party game was Doom, though LAN gaming did exist before Doom. This year, the most popular game seemed to be "Return To Castle Wolfenstein", though there also was a lot of "Urban Terror" (which they kept referring to UT, which kept confusing me since I always associate that acronym to Urban Tapestry :-)).



I've never been able to play games like Quake or Doom...I'm too prone to motion sickness. I can't even -watch- anyone play these types of games for long without getting queasy.

The games are also a tad too realistic in their violence for me to be able to fully enjoy them, even if I didn't get sick. When I play computer games, I tend to go for the "nurturing" or strategy type games rather than "kill and conquer". As I've mentioned in previous Blatherings, I've been hooked on Myst, The Sims, and Civilization. Exception to the rule: Rogue (which I got hooked on back in university thanks to Michelle and now have on my Palm thanks to Bryan :)).



Anyway, while others played networked computer games on the weekend, I played The Sims (Portia Potter is doing quite well, and didn't even accidentally set anyone on fire!), updated Waiting for Frodo and My Life In A Nutshell, worked on a special project with Craig White, and hung out and chatted with other non-gamers.

People dropped by throughout the weekend. Some stayed through the night, others just visited for a few hours to chat. It was the kind of party with all kinds of interesting pockets of conversation and activity throughout the house.

I'd peek into the basement and find Luisa's sons, Ronnie and Michael, trouncing Jeff and Bryan at Castle Wolfenstein (photo at the top is of Ronnie and Michael; there's also a photo of Jeff/Bryan later in this Blathering as they were losing to R&M). Upstairs, I'd see Mike Diamond beside his young son Kyle, their eyes glued to the screen and headphones on, networked into the current game. I got to hold Megan Kesner again (Jeff and Gail's baby, smiles a LOT), and congratulate David Brake and Delphine Grynszpan on their engagement.



And whenever I got too tired, I'd find an empty bedroom and crash for a little while. Near the end of the weekend, my half hour power snoozes turned into real crashes...I recall telling Michelle and Andrew (see above photo) on Saturday night that I was just going upstairs to nap for an half an hour, for example. The next time I was conscious was when Jeff woke me up at about 4 a.m., saying that we were going home.

One of the cool things about the weekend was that I could wander through the house with my laptop and still be online; Jeff installed an Airport card into Samantha (my computer) on Friday night, and there was an Airport hub hooked up in the basement.



Luisa and I got a lot of time to hang out and just chat, especially during set-up and tear-down at the beginning and end of the LAN party. This was one of the highlights of the LAN party weekend for me. :-)

Sunday consisted of some gaming (Iain, Jeff, Bryan, Scott, Michael, Ronnie, Reid) and gabbing (Luisa and me), clean-up and moving furniture back into their original configurations, and then dinner out at the Red Lobster. Red Lobster commercials on television always look so enticing; unfortunately reality didn't live up to the mouthwatering marketing ads, or at least when we visited. Filling, though, and by the end of the meal I was starting to doze off, I was so sleepy. Very embarrassing. :-)



BLATHERCHAT NOTES

This is it! Your last chance to publicly post your New Year's Resolutions before the New Year actually begins!

Scott and Amanda Snyder have posted new Zo|AMP|euml; pics on Sonomancer.

Chris Conway was the only one to post his 2002 Wish List in Blatherchat, so here it is:

Christo's wishes for 2002

1. people stop killing each other

2. Professional politicials to be abolished - jury system of government - 500 names pulled out of a hat i each country to serve as each country's parliament, well paid for 4 years. World government overseeing all countrys parliaments handed over to Urban Tapestry.

3. and thirdly..

4. DVDs to be made cheaper - especially Lexx DVDs

5. Dogs will be classed as vermin and be elimitaed from the surface of the planet (sorry dog-lovers - I'm not a dog person and this is my list)




6. The cities are domed over as we were promised in old Scifi books/films.

7. George Bush replaced by Bette Midler or similar.

8. actions taken to reduce human population - especially in the UK - 58 million!!! Ireland has 3 million , Denmark has 3 million. If humans were rats in the UK we would've called Rentakill long ago.

9. New album from Urban Tapestry please

10. I wanna get to see Brian Wilson touring UK in January

11. Wanna see Jefferson Starship again too in 2002

12. Advertising to be abolished. People will be supplied with a directory of available companies to buy things from.

13. Everone will be paid a wage for existing. Anyone wishing to have more money may work for it if they choose.

14. The more unpleasant and hard the job, the higher the pay. Sewage workers, nurses etc - highest paid. Politicians, musicians - will get nothing, or maybe dinner at most. A scale will have to be worked out. This will be sorted by the parliaments and final decisions made by Urban Tapestry.




I also asked for life insights. Here are some from Heather Munn:


- Con artists come in many flavors, but no matter how sweet, underneath the sugar coating, they are still rotting lumps of coal.


- No matter how thick or festering the lump of coal, some still make fine diamonds deep inside (ask me about the Christmas card I recieved this year)


There's more about strangers and the kindness thereof, but I couldn't figure out how to put it. Just trust me when I say that the crazyquilt ladies and the #filkhaven folk are some of the finest people around. What about the rest of you?




And re: my drooling over Sean Bean, Julie has kindly pointed out that if I'd like more Sean Bean action I should check out the Sharpe series on TV..."- a British based thing, sometimes shown on PBS in the States, available on video. Set in the the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. Features Bean being super-herioc in a 'street-rat-orphan-made good' 'promoted-from-the-ranks-for-saving-Wellington's-life' 'struggling-with-the-difficulties-thereof' kind of way. Lots of good fight scenes, accurate history, good portrayal of social stigmas, and he almost always gets a girl...".

Talk to you all next year!

-- Debbie





Blatherpics:

- Mostly from Luisa's and Reid's LAN party on the weekend. The last graphic was my first experiment with the scratchboard variant tool in Painter.

Today's Poll:

Are you generally happier now that you were a year ago?
Friday
Dec282001

2001 retrospective

sunrise


In yesterday's Blathering I said that I was choosing not to visit the Lord of the Rings movie discussion board until I've had a chance to see the movie more times. I'd like to post a clarification, since there seems to be some misunderstanding. This was in no means a recommendation for people NOT to read the message board, but an expression of a personal choice (mine) similar to those who choose not read negative reviews until they see a movie.

It's true that my personal choice may influence others who have the same quirky mindset as me. But I'm also assuming that you're all grown-ups and can come up with opinions of your own. :-) Some of you might read a Blathering and think, "Hm, she has a point." Others might think, "Geez, what is she ON today?" Maybe some of you disagree with everything I say, but check in from time to time just out of morbid curiosity. :-)

I apologize to Allison for not making it clearer that my choice not to read additional negative LOTR reviews until I've had a chance to see the movie some more times was a personal choice and -not- a general recommendation for people to stay away from her board. As I mentioned yesterday, I think her message board is a great forum for those who wish to exchange reviews and comments about the movie, both bad AND good.

Ponyboys


Jeff and I are going to Luisa's and Reid's LAN party today. Not sure how much online time I'll get over the next few days, so in case I don't get to post until January, here's my

2001 Personal Retrospective

For the record, I am MUCH happier now than I was a year ago. :-)

In January, Jeff and Scott M. helped me move home from Philadelphia, ending my six-month adventure in corporateland (or at least the on-location part of it). No one in senior management at Xlibris said good-bye, but I didn't care...I was going home. :-)

In February, we went up north with my sister and her family to trek across the lake and visit the cottage. The ice was less stable than we expected, and after a scary moment when Ruth went partway through the ice, we opted for Deerhurst Inn instead.

Mango


February was also when Xlibris shut Inkspot down and laid off all its staff. I clearly remember ICQing with some of them when they got their notices, and then watching their ICQ ids drop off my screen one at a time as they were asked to shut down their computers. Very depressing. :-(

The demise of Inkspot was bittersweet for me. After six years of hard work, it was difficult for me to see it end this way. On the other hand, Inkspot's success, as exciting as it was, had ramped up the level of stress in my life to the point where 12-hour workdays were the norm rather than the exception, and this was having an affect on all other aspects of my life, including my marriage. Not good.

I spent most of March and April sorting out the post-Inkspot mess. My legal/accounting bills totalled over $5000 this year.

Starting in May, Jeff and I took an six month sabbatical. I slept, spent time with friends and family, read, played my harp, slept some more. Jeff and I spent a lot of time together and actually began having conversations that didn't have anything to do with work. :-) We visited the cottage and also did some travelling to Vancouver Island and Japan as part our tenth wedding anniversary trip. I used frequent flyer points to visit friends in California and Ohio.

Sept. 11th is the main public event that most people will remember in 2001, and each of us was affected differently. My main reaction was sorrow for the families who lost loved ones. And for me, it was also another reminder to get a sense of perspective when it came to getting stressed over little things.

beach


November marked the first month in years where I've been able to write fulltime. I felt incredibly rusty in my fiction writing; it had been so long. But it felt INCREDIBLY GOOD at the same time. :-) I got some nonfiction assignments, handed them in on time, got paid. Got back into working on my novels again.

I am pretty hyped about 2002. A fresh start, and my first year as a fulltime freelance writer. It feels wonderful to be able to be excited about the future again, with no reservations.

The past two years have run the full gamut in terms of lows and highs. And to end this entry, here are a few of things I've added to my personal list of truths and discoveries. In no particular order:

- The people at the top aren't always right. (I know, I know, this is obvious to most people. I just had it hit home much more effectively this past year :-))

- You can't and shouldn't always try to make everyone happy.

- Kiwi fruit isn't so bad.

- Schedule in relaxation time, don't count on it happening on its own.

- Learn HOW to relax.

- It's "ice cream", not "icecream".

- Don't let yourself get obsessed/stressed by little things. Save your energy for what matters.

- A romantic relationship does not necessarily translate into a good working relationship.

- Prioritization makes all the difference. If you don't prioritize and then adjust your actions/choices accordingly, then you'll just get frustrated and overwhelmed.

- When in the U.S., ask for napkins, not serviettes.

I'd be highly interested in hearing some of your own personal retrospectives and especially any life lessons you've learned (hey, maybe I can benefit, too :)). Please post them in Blatherchat.

Hey, and don't forget about your New Year's Resolutions! :-) People who have bravely posted so far include: Lissa, Lyanne, Bryan, Anton, Heather M, Constance, Gary, Janet, Heather B, Sherman and Katy.

Blatherpics:

- Sunrise at the cottage, photo taken in May (beginning of my sabbatical!).

- Ray, Scott, and Tony from One Trick Pony. Jeff and Bryan are now sharing their office space. I took this photo last week after lunch at Wow Sushi.

- Mango, my mom-in-law's cat. Jeff and I had bad allergic reactions to Mango when we were staying at Ginny's. A tragic thing, really, since Mango is one of the most affectionate cats I've ever encountered, and will stand at my feet with obvious hurt bewilderment as I ignore his outpouring of love (mainly in the form of enthusiastically rubbing cat hair against my legs and purring loudly).

- Beach walk near the Wickanninish Inn. Photo by Jeff.

Today's Poll: (Courtesy Sherman Dorn)

Do you own a slow cooker (also known as a Crock-Pot)?
Thursday
Dec272001

LOTR crew t-shirt!

Weta shirt


Hey, check out the photo above...Jill and Shane sent me an Eye of Sauron shirt! On the front is an embroidered red logo, and on the back is the text: "The Lord of the Rings: Weta Visual Effects Crew". VERYvery cool. I have been cheering and clapping for Shane's name in the credits each time I've seen Lord of the Rings, and now I'm going to be cheering and clapping even more loudly. :-) Jill also sent me some of the new New Zealand Lord of the Rings stamps.

Thank you, Jill and Shane! I'm even more of a geeky newbie Tolkien fan than I was before.

Sauron eye logo


My dad treated us to lunch yesterday at King's Garden. I'm nuts for the shrimp dumplings, yum. Afterwards, Parki and Andrew came to visit. Both had iPods (Parki's was only hours old). Jeff got one from his mom for Christmas. Very cool-looking gadget, and you can supposedly fit a thousand songs on it.

Scott arrived later in the afternoon; he's staying with us until tomorrow. He announced he had just seen Lord of the Rings at the Paramount despite having already made plans to see it with Jeff and me that evening, the cheeky git! He liked it so much he was willing to see it again, however.

Eglinton


Before the movie, we had dinner at an Indonesian restaurant called Garuda (I think that's the name) right across from the theatre. I don't think I'm going out of my way to eat there again...it took 40 minutes for us to get our order even though there were no other customers when we arrived, and the food itself was mediocre to bad (shrimp chips were burned, the mystery meat in my rice dish was tough and had a gamey flavour, for example).

We decided to see the movie at the Eglinton theatre for sentimental reasons. One of the oldest movie theatres in Toronto, the Eglinton is closing soon. Apparently (please feel free to correct me if any of you know differently; I haven't been able to track down any written sources of information so am relying on third-party reports) a Toronto Star reporter and a few others filed suit against the landmark for not adhering to current handicapped access requirements. It didn't matter that the Eglinton was built before these guidelines were established.

Already struggling before the filing of the suit, the Eglinton said that if it invested the money needed to revamp the building (hundreds of thousands of dollars), it would go out of business. Its regretful announcement that it would have to shut down elicited much outrage and regret from Torontonians. The theatre was declared an official national historic site by Parks Canada a while back through the work of the Historic Theatres Trust.

Jeff, Andrew, Parki


Though not the most plush movie theatre in the city, the Eglinton is one of the few theatres left with any semblance of personality, its art deco interior signs and ornaments providing a glimpse into old Toronto. The place has always reminded me of an elderly woman wearing old-fashioned clothing to a corporate schmooze cocktail party. Her outfit may be slightly shabby but still retains its original elegance, and the woman herself carries herself with dignity lacking in most of the party attendees.

Okay, so maybe I'm going a tad overboard on the metaphor, but I still find myself feeling somewhat sad about the whole thing.



So I went to see Lord of the Rings last night for the third time, with Jeff, Scott D. (who saw it twice in one day), Parki, Lindsay and Wendy. First time I saw LOTR, I loved it. Second time wasn't as enjoyable experience because of the bad film quality/sound/audience experience at Elgin Mills, plus some of the negative stuff on Allison's movie board that was still in my head. Before I saw it the third time, I purposely stopped reading LOTR reviews and the message board. And I found myself enjoying the movie even more than the first time.

My moment of epiphany came during the car ride to the subway with Jodi and Allison. Like some other avid Tolkien fans, Allison was pretty upset with parts of the LOTR movie which didn't match the book (though she loved the rest of movie). I found myself fiercely defending why I still liked those parts, but also found my rabid enthusiasm for the movie waning somewhat.

Then I gave myself a mental kick in the head (easier than a physical kick, after all) for letting my own enjoyment of the movie be influenced by what other people thought of it. I purposely stopped reading the movie review board...that forum is wonderful for those who wish to voice and read opinions about the movie (both positive or negative), but I think I'd rather stick to my own little bubble of enthusiasm and see the movie another half dozen times without trying to argue why I like it so much. :-)

The audience at the Eglinton was great, by the way, remarkably enthusiastic (cheers, clapping at appropriate points, for instance) for a movie that has been out for over a week.

Hung out at bookstores with Scott most of the day, going to Parki's tonight.



Blatherpics:

- My Weta crew "Eye of Sauron" shirt! :-)

- Close-up of the embroidered logo on the front of the shirt.

- Eglinton theatre.

- Jeff, Andrew, Parki.

- IPods belonging to Jeff, Andrew, and Parki. :-)

- Scott Dixon. Scott's staying with us until tomorrow.

Today's Poll:

Have you made at least one New Year's Resolution?
Wednesday
Dec262001

christmas report

Sara and Annie


Taking a brief breather in the midst of the holiday chaos to catch up a bit. In the past four days, we've been to five Christmas parties/dinners around Toronto and out near Orangeville. During that time, my dinner has ranged from cheese and bread (no time to have a proper dinner between parties so I foraged in one host's cupboards) to turkey to roast beef to ham. Settings have also varied, from a quiet gathering in a friend's living room to the affectionate chaos of my cousins' buffet dinner to the crystal-and-china elegance of the Ridpath Christmas Eve feast.

cousin's party

We enjoyed all, but on drives between the various events, Jeff and I tried to figure out a way how to simplify future Christmas holidays. Tough call, though. On the one hand, each gathering has a special significance and is one we wouldn't want to miss. On the other hand, the combined effect is that we often end up stressed out and exhausted. I overheard the hosts of one of the above-mentioned parties say, "God, I can't WAIT until all this is over!" in reference to Christmas visits and events, after cleaning up after her own party and was getting ready to attend another. :-(

The situation reminds me a great deal of what happens at my favourite filk conventions. They are wonderful events and I wouldn't miss them for the world, but I always feel somewhat cheated at the end of each...there is never enough time to spend with the friends who gather there in addition to attending the concerts and workshops and open filks. As a partial solution, I've been trying to spend extra time with some of these friends outside of conventions, but geography and finances make this difficult (even more difficult in 2002, when I am ramping up my freelance writing career again).

star decoration

A complicating factor in the Christmas holiday is that it's generally a time when out-of-town friends and family come to visit (so it's not as if one could easily arrange to get together some other time, at least not without making elaborate and possibly expensive travel plans).

I'd be interested in hearing how all of you handle the holiday season, especially from those who have multiple family/friend holiday parties. Do you get stressed over the holidays? Do you try to do too much? Maybe you find that your holidays are TOO quiet. Or maybe you just don't care. :-) Please post your comments in Blatherchat.

Me and nieces

Here are a few highlights of the Christmas holiday for me so far:

- Going to see the Nutcracker ballet with Ruth, Sara, and Annie. It was Annie's first time at the ballet. She sat beside me on a booster seat (we could only get good tickets in two pairs, so Ruth and Sara sat elsewhere in the row), clutching her wooden Nutcracker toy and gazing wide-eyed at the costumed dancers on stage. By the end of the performance, her head was leaning on my arm; she was fast asleep.

- Seeing Parki's expression when he was presented with a Christmas gift that some of us had pooled resources to buy (a teller's window that he had been lusting over in an antique's shop).

- My Christmas gift from Jeff. He had put together a memory box package for me with photos from our sabbatical. There were three little booklets, each representing a different aspect of our time together, and each containing photos he had selected from our archives, modified in Photoshop, cropped, and printed. He put all three in a beautiful wooden box with a photo displayed under glass in the cover, a picture taken at the Wickinninish Inn where the housekeeping staff had arranged our robes in the shape of a heart on our bed. I gave Jeff a tape of a song I had written for him. :-)

xmas tag


- My cousin Naomi's Christmas party. I only tend to see my cousins at weddings, funerals, and the annual Christmas party, despite the fact that I really like them. I'm determined that 2002 will be different. Naomi and I have been e-mailing about plans to get together during the year, rather than wait until next December again. I've also started up an online mailing list to help the Ohi/Kajioka clan keep in better touch.

- When a wrapped Christmas gift my dad-in-law had sent with us for Brittany got accidentally activated as we drove out to Jeff's mom's place. The gift turned out to be a Barbie CD/cassette player. Jeff finally had to rip open the gift to shut the thing off, else we would have had to hear badly recorded hiphop muzack all the way to Ginny's place, along with a perky, "C'MON, girls, let's get up and DANCE!"

- Christmas morning walk out at my mom-in-law's place in the country with Jeff and his parents. We bundled up in hats and mitts and coats, but the wind was still so cold that my cheeks started going numb. Gorgeous day...sunny, brisk wind, snow on the ground.

- Christmas carol sing at my sister's place last night, before we had dinner. Sara had organized it, and even written a little speech to introduce the event. She had hand-prepared and illustrated a carol book in case some of us didn't know all the words, and then played the carols herself on the piano. I was bursting with pride, of course. :-)

Jeff and Brittany

Today my Dad is taking us out for lunch at King's Garden along with Ruth, Kaarel, Sara and Annie. This is another longstanding tradition in my family that became altered a bit over the years. Dad and Mom used to always go to Sai Woo's on Boxing Day (Sai Woo's used to be a well-known Chinese restaurant in downtown Toronto), and continued to do so even after having kids. I remember we always used to get bamboo scroll calendars when we left. Sadly, Sai Woo's shut down two years ago, so we decided to move Boxing Day lunch to King's Garden instead, a Chinese restaurant that's about a three minute walk away from our apartment.

Scott D. arrives at our place today, and will be staying for several days. We might also be seeing Parki and Andrew Platzer this afternoon.

Hope you're all having a great winter holiday....

Ridpath xmas drinks

Blatherpics:

- Sara and Annie last night. Annie is wearing a paper mask and crown that came with her "Secret Princess Handbook" given to her by my dad.

- Dec. 23rd Christmas party at my cousin's place. From left to right: my cousin Daniel, Ruth, cousin Naomi.

- One of the napkin holders at the Ridpath Christmas dinner.

- Annie, me, and Sara at the Nutcracker.

- Tag from one of Sara's Christmas presents. Inside was a homemade pin made from coloured beads.

- Jeff and Brittany at his mom's place.

- Drinks cooling in the sink just before the Ridpath Christmas dinner.

Today's Poll:

Did you enjoy Christmas? YES if it was a positive event overall, NO if you were more relieved when it was over.
Saturday
Dec222001

happy holidays



I'll likely be offline until after Christmas, though if I happen to find myself near someone's computer, I may post in Blatherchat.

And don't forget your New Year's Resolutions!

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. :-)

-- Debbie