Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Very-Nearly-Year In Review

This entry is being posted so that I can semi-legitimately say that I didn't go an entire year without posting. This post is not a farewell. It is not an announcement of a return. It just is.

I had no explicit intention of abandoning this blog. I still don't. I never made a conscious decision to stop posting. I still haven't. I just didn't post one day, then didn't post the next day, then it was 2010, then it was late August.

Now, for the last year-or-so. These are more or less random thoughts, barely sketched out.

I'm still in the same job that I've been in since early 2008. Starting that job - or more accurately, leaving my last job, or even more accurately, being informed that my last job was coming to an abrupt and unforeseen end, was part of the catalyst for starting this blog.

The new job I had thought imminent in the summer of 2009 still hasn't happened. It may or may not happen at this point. The prospective new employer took me on some all-expenses-paid training in the summer of 2009, and their hiring is proceeding on schedule, but I haven't gotten called up yet. There's at least one more wave of hiring to go on the project, so hope remains. I'm quite content where I am now, and more than adequately compensated, so I have no complaints no matter what happens, but I'd definitely switch over to this new situation given the opportunity.

Since I haven't changed jobs, I also haven't moved. We're still in the same house, which is now paid off in full, as are all our household's student loans at long long last. The house has also received some much-needed repairs thanks to a contractor who actually showed up and did his job, and a new back step and backyard patio thanks to my father-in-law.

My son is in school and doing fine. I'm not sure that the various school district employees who deal with him are doing quite so well, but that's why they get paid the big bucks. My favourite moment from a parent-teacher meeting was when I ripped into his teacher and a school district drone chaperone for his report card saying they'd like us to hold him back on his reading, because the material he was reading was getting too advanced. They hemmed and hawed and stammered trying to justify this in the meeting; first they were concerned that he might not be intellectually and / or emotionally ready for some of his preferred books (although, to be clear, it's not like we're letting him read a lot of novels on the theme of nihilism), then that his chosen material was so far beyond that of his classmates that they might have trouble relating. The truth is one of two things. Either his advanced reading makes it harder for the teacher, or he's reading material that his teacher and/or the useless suit-clad sycophants from the district office can't understand themselves.

My wife has returned to work, for the first time since before our son was born lo those many years ago. It's a pain. The logistics of childcare and other family responsibilities become exponentially more complicated without one always-available parent to cover home base. She's on a short-term contract, and we're kind of hoping she isn't offered an extension. We certainly don't need the money; she's working because she wanted to try getting back out of the house for a bit, and that experiment may have run its course. I also wanted her to have some more recent experience on her resume in case I drop dead tomorrow and she suddenly gets drafted as the primary breadwinner for the family.

We have a new dog. A female mutt, mostly black lab. I have a definite type (three of my last four dogs matched that description). She's six months old, and got spayed last Thursday. She's long since back to her goofy normal self. At this early stage, she's the best-behaved dog I've ever had, and I've had some very good dogs.

I've subscribed to Macleans magazine, and its arrival in the mailbox is one of the highlights of my week. Usually. For the last few issues my favourite columnist, Mark Steyn, has been notably absent, but the editors claim he'll return shortly. He'd better, for my subscription's sake. Anyway, it's two bucks or so a month tacked onto my cable bill for a weekly news magazine, so it would have been tough to pass up. Plus, although it would be a massive stretch to claim that the overall tone of the magazine is conservative, it's clear that the editors are willing to at least allow conservative voices to be heard, which is near-miraculous for Canadian media.

On to geekier stuff.

My wife and I have gone through sporadic bursts of playing Magic. I also had a brief relapse into playing the Microprose Magic game, released in the 1990s, thanks to a group of wonderful lunatics who have hacked it to add lots of newer cards.

Even that, though, has fallen by the wayside thanks to Forge. Forge has almost everything I want in a Magic program: a huge card selection, adequate single-player AI, and full custom deckbuilding capabilities. I've been playing it way too much, and building way too many decks, for the last few weeks. My wife plays it too. We have two computers set up, and it's not unusual for us to each be on one of them playing Forge. The only things Forge is missing, as far as I'm concerned, are multiplayer and the rest of the cards. Yes, my ideal Magic computer game would include every card that's ever been printed. Whereas the new version of Forge added almost 400 more cards, I get the impression that the developers have the same goal.

I also finally went to Linux. I built a new PC last fall - 2.3GHz quad-core, 4 GB RAM, 1.3 TB of hard drive space. Its name, as longtime readers (if there are any of you left) may have guessed, is Levi. Levi is the most powerful PC I've ever built by a long margin, and I decided it was time to take the plunge. I set it up to dual-boot between Windows XP and Ubuntu Studio, and resolved to stick as exclusively with Ubuntu as much as I could.

I haven't booted Levi into XP in months. Well, with one exception - I tried installing a Windows program that purported to prepare a virtual machine image based on my actual XP installation. You see, I wanted to cheat. The Microprose Magic game doesn't work under Wine (a program that lets you run some Windows software in Linux), and I was going into withdrawal. I planned to set up an XP virtual machine in Ubuntu for that single purpose. However, that little program didn't work, or I did something wrong. I puttered at it a bit, and while doing so stumbled across Forge, which works fine in Linux. I now have pretty much no interest in going back to the Microprose game, or Windows.

I've found a Linux application for everything else I want to do with my computer, with the sole exception of MP3tag, which works fine under Wine. Bye bye, XP. See you when Diablo 3 ships, and probably not before.

I got my son a Wii for Christmas last year. He loves it.

I actually bought it in the early fall, and spent every evening for weeks on end at a workbench in the basement where I'd set up the Wii, hooked to a tiny old TV set. I wasn't playing games (much) - I was modding the holy jumping monkey bugs out of it. By the time he opened it on Christmas morning, it included a media player, MAME and a pile of ROMs, emulators for several other older game systems with huge ROM sets, and an external hard drive with...well, a lot of games preinstalled. Too many, actually - to this day, he's barely scraped the surface, preferring to stick with Super Mario Galaxy (1 and 2), Mario Kart, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I sense a theme.

I could say much more about each of these, and many other topics besides. I hear there's even stuff going on in the world outside my house. Maybe I will over the days to come. Maybe not. I really don't know.

For now, I'm stopping here in the interests of getting this up before it's officially the anniversary of my last post, at which point I fear this blog might have turned into a pumpkin if left fallow.

Is anybody still out there?

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the middle shelf, left-hand side, on bookshelf # 1. Once again, spot the theme. For nonexistent bonus points, identify the two books that aren't strictly on-theme.


Anonymous said...

Marx thought public education was the key to controlling a society. Any time you can oppose the Machine is time well spent. I once had a professor who said that to be educated properly, you had to read everything C. S. Lewis ever wrote, beginning and ending with the Narnia Chronicles.

Every time you talk about your son, I think, "My God, are we really this old?"


RebelAngel said...

I have checked the ole blog roughly every fortnight. I was tempted to check in with Derek and Alicia and make sure you hadn't met some horrible end that my distant, Southerly location made me oblivious to. Glad you are alive and more or less well.