The Pain Continues

Mere hours ago (read down a few inches, I'm too annoyed to properly link), I felt I got screwed by the mana/opponent gods in a Magic Online match. I'm sure I'm not the first to feel that way.

In an attempt to regain my sense of happiness with life, I absconded with the Armoire from Easter dinner at my parents so I could rush back and fit a draft in before bedtime.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The MTGO client (not the server) crashes at the end of pack 2 so I never see what I could have taken first in the 3rd pack instead of an off-colour Spitting Sliver. I look forward to arguing with Customer Service and getting nothing.

The draft is a disaster with a money-drafted first pick Mystic Snake over Pulmonic Sliver followed by Looter over Plague Sliver. I take the Strangling Soot third as a possible splash and then grit my teeth with frustration for the next 25 picks as nothing but quality black and white cards come sailing through in both directions while I persist in trying to force the colours. The choice between Assassin and Tendrils 6th in pack two is particularly frustrating.

On the other hand, I do have the soft-lock option of Mystic Snake, Tolarian Sentinel, Reality Acid and Whispers. I also have two Dream Stalkers and a Wipe Away. But all the synergy in the world isn't going to overcome having only three creatures with a power greater than 2, two of which are 5-mana hill giants (though one has wings). I should definitely have abandoned green but I really didn't expect it to be cut in pack two after I starved it for the first 15 picks.

I deserved to lose in the first round, and I do. But it's how I lost that is so frustrating.

Game 1 we both mulligan and I get a reasonable draw of Looter, Shell-Dweller, Dismal Failure and Mystic Snake. Of course, he's playing reactive black/red so a Deathspore Thallid stares at my wall and a Dauthi Slayer smacks me around as I sit holding useless counterspells. Eventually I Wipe Away an Enslave and wait three turns to Acid the Slayer. This leaves me at 6 life with a board of Havenwood Wurm, Herd Gnarr and two Saprolings vs his 1/1 Thallid with 3 counters. He's at 9 life and dead in two turns without a really good answer.

Pardic Dragon

That's a really good answer. And no, for the wits among you, he did not suspend it.

No problem. In reviewing the game, there's nothing I could have done differently with the knowledge I had.

Game 2 has him giving away a card with a mulligan. I have a fantastic curve of Whispers, Spinneret Sliver, Thallid Germinator and Tolarian Sentinel. I'm holding Reality Acid and the potential to destroy all of his lands if the Sentinel lives, but Premature Burial, Assassinate and Lightning Axe (Madness Gorgon) means I've got an empty board instead.

Frustrating, but not entirely unexpected.

Except that now I'm holding two lands and Reality Acid vs. his three lands and a Gorgon.

Dream Stalker off the top puts the Gorgon away and I can't help but grumble as he stalled at three lands - if only the Sentinel had lived! Uktabi Drake hits at an optimal time and I'm pounding for three against nothing - I begin fretting about having enough time for game 3 after all the server lag.

Oh wait, all he needs is a creature to stop me. In this case, it's a Mana Skimmer that trades with the Drake and I see why the 1/5 half of the Acid combo isn't so good by himself (doubters feel free to chime in). He finally draws the fourth land and that allows him to lay Wildfire Emissary, Coal Stoker and Flowstone Channeler in rapid succession to my un-playable Strangling Soot. I draw Wipe Away and over the course of two turns use the Acid and the Wipe to destroy the Emissary. I then trade a Herd Gnarr for the Flowstone as he's just played a Deathspore, and an on-board -0/-2 option isn't something I want to face with my deck of weak creatures with nothing in hand to trigger the Gnarr. Dismal Failure keeps the 1/5 alive when he attempts to "Dead" it after combat, forcing Aetherflame Wall to be discarded.


Thank you Bill Gates for putting an option into Windows that wipes out everything you've typed and can't be un-done with CTRL-Z. When filled with rage, what I really want to do is re-type the last thousand words of my post.

I believe I'd rather be swallowed by a Sarlac then re-live these past two hours.


[/End Aside]

A second Dream Stalker lets me Acid the Deathspore and then slow Acid the Coal Stoker. A sideboarded Wistful Thinking dumps Enslave, Sulfurous Blast, Rathi Trapper and Swamp into his graveyard. Boy was that a good sideboarding decision after seeing all his reactive spells. I guess I'm "lucky" that he stranded the Enslave by only drawing 5 lands and 14 playable spells by turn 13. He draws Ib Halfheart and another Deathspore to my two lands thus putting me five lands ahead of him (or more accurately, 5 spells behind).

Bored yet?

Don't worry, it's over soon. My second land was a Swamp which allows me to Soot. I figure I can kill Ib Halfheart and get aggressive with my two 1/5s against his Deathspore and Saproling. This was probably a mistake as Ib wasn't threatening me, but I'm running out of solutions in my deck and want to get him low in life in case I don't draw the Havenwood Wurm. I also want to avoid a goblin swarm if he suddenly finds all his lands. Surprisingly, he still sacrifices his only two mountains for two goblins. I attack into his swarm and trade a 1/5 for the Thallid and Saproling.

In play, he now has 3 Swamps and two 1/1 goblins with a card in hand versus my 1/5 and 9 lands with a 10th sitting in hand. I have twice as many permanents in play.

Of the remaining 17 cards in his deck, 11 of them are lands.

Of the remaining 17 cards in my deck, 7 of them are lands.

So what do I draw?

That's right, Utopia Vow! Ha! Weren't expecting that, I bet!

He plays a Mountain and then a Swamp. And then draws Void for 2, randomly hitting the Vow along with the 1/5 so he can hit me to 11.

I have five turns to draw an answer to two 1/1s. Remember those three creatures I mentioned with a power higher than two? They're all still in my deck. So is the Spike Feeder and the Walk the Aeons (4 Islands in play) and Mystic Snake and the Looter. It's almost inconceivable that I could lose to two 1/1 vanilla creatures.

Forest. 9 life left.

Granted, a second Mountain gives him Pardic Dragon as an out, so it's not all upside.

Island. 7 life left.

Uh oh, there's that second Mountain. But no spells! He's finally drawing all his lands! I'm going to win!

Forest. 5 life left.

This isn't good. Where the heck are all my spells?

Swamp. 3 life left.

You have GOT to be kidding me.


Whew! I'm saved! Sure, I'm at 1 life, but I have 10 lands in play (and 4 in hand) and only 3 left in my 11 card library. Any two creatures gives me a chance!

Giant Dustwasp.



Emit colourful euphamisms very loudly. Begin outraged LiveJournal posting.

Sharing My Pain

Second round of the 8-4 queue. Game 3. I need a win to get my investment back and be in a good mood all week. I had just lost game 2 from parity by drawing 4 straight lands - suddenly a reasonable 9/6 spell/land is a 10/10 and I'm dead.

All I need is a reasonable draw, so of course...

15 spells, 3 lands.

Amusingly, I could have won the game with that - I had an agressive start and with so many spells I had all the tools I needed to survive and even win early.

Mwonvuli Acid Moss.

I haven't seen it in play since the first Pre-Release, but I was lucky enough to get a visit today. It's both mana acceleration and land destruction, what's not to like?

Ironically, I saw the Moss the previous game and pondered putting in an 18th land for Flickering Spirit which I drew. I had also taken out the Mindstab which was mostly useless versus his Green-Red because it seemed too lucky - if I drew it in my opening hand it would be fantastic, just like Mwonvuli Acid Moss, otherwise all the targets would be in play.

Very. Very. Frustrating.

But at least it didn't crash! And really, isn't that the unlikeliest thing about all of this?

Back to MOO2!

Pole Vaulting

I'm back from Egypt and have lots to say but with absolutely everyone asking about it, I'm a bit weary of the topic and ready to move on. In particular, I want to move on to Pole Vaulting.

I've done a variety of strange activities in my life, and I'm always looking to add to my list of new things. Just before leaving for Egypt I thought of Pole Vaulting. I find it fascinating to see people sail up on the pole and twist their bodies over the bar, but for the most part I just want to fly through the air and perhaps develop a bit of upper body strength. Bounding down the side of a huge sand dune in Jordan last week really brought home how exhilerating the feeling of flight is.

The problem? How to find a pole vaulting "clinic" where I could try it out and see what it's like. Pole Vaulting isn't a very mainstream sport - I don't see a lot of recreational pole vaulters wandering around (likely because everyone would hit them with, "...or are you just glad to see me?"). It's one of the few "sports" that no one seems to do for fun, though that seems to include many of the track and field competitions. Shot put or hurdles anyone?

So how do I find out about local (Toronto) pole vaulting groups or sessions? Any suggestions or advice?
  • Current Music
    The Beatles - "Twist and Shout"
  • Tags


A very quick update before I rush back to conquering the galaxy...

1) We evicted the not-so-ex con, alcoholic tenant! And by evicted I mean, he "disappeared" two weeks ago and I give a 70/20/10 change he's skipped town/gone to prison/wearing cement shoes courtesy of his loan shark.

Needless to say, there's much to tell about this, but I don't have the time. Imagine going into your basement and finding used Q-tips, wastebaskets stuck to the floor with dried urine, cigarette burns in all the carpets, the fire alarms disabled, and food lying out on the counter after several days. It wasn't pretty. The high point - my mom opening up the bathroom vanity and finding used Depends. Please take as many moments as you'd like to enjoy that image.

2) We got a new tenant! He's already destroyed the ceiling in the basement stairwell, but that was in an attempt to get his bed frame down our narrow steps. Anyone know anything about plastering and fixing bent drywall frames?

On the plus side, he took possession immediately and paid with a certified cheque. As that is the first rent cheque I've seen in four months, I'm a happy camper. He also doesn't have a criminal record, a smoking habit or a coke-sniffing heroin-addicted girlfriend. These are big plusses.

3) We're going to Egypt for a month! That's right, the land of the ancients is beckoning and I can't resist the siren call of deserts and ancient buildings. I've always wanted to go and it's finally happening! My sister is amidst a seven month trek through Western and Northern Africa, so the Armoire and I will meet up with her and backpack around. We have no idea where we're staying or what our exact plan is, but I expect we'll have a fantastic time. Did you know that as a foreigner in certain towns in middle Egypt, they assign you an army officer as soon as you arrive? Or that between certain towns you can only travel in armed convoy? I'm really excited by this. The Armoire has already said she won't bail me out - can you even get bail in an Egyptian prison?

That's it for now. You've just heard all my small talk for the past month of cocktail parties. It seems less interesting (different interesting?) than being backstage at a fashion show or attending a clothing-free modern dance extravaganza? (and those are just the stories that were fit to print) I fear I've become quite domesticated and "normal", but I'm keeping an open mind as the benefits are apparently quite generous!
  • Current Music
    Bangles - "Walk Like An Egyptian" (what else could it be?)

Im'media'te Gratification

Every week the good folks at Sitemeter send me an email with "eyeclicks" data for this very website. It mostly looks like this:

              The Beginning Of My Ascendance                

                    -- Site Summary ---                     

            Total ........................ 1,085            
            Average per Day .................. 2            
            Average Visit Length .......... 0:03            
            This Week ....................... 16            

          Page Views

            Total ........................ 1,217            
            Average per Day .................. 2            
            Average per Visit .............. 1.1            
            This Week ....................... 17
Needless to say, the 0:03 visit length, which I've always assumed was in seconds, is not very inspiring.

Hmm...I've just realized that the entire purpose of this post, which was to bemoan the 3-second visits (sounds like the Armoire's love life!), has now been made moot as it's now clear to me that it's probably 3 minutes and that's not so bad (though if you punched through the recent stocks and video game updates in under three minutes, you're just skimming). This has been happening to me frequently lately, both here and in real life (ie, the office). I invest a bunch of time in writing a post or email only to realize it's totally unnecessary halfway through. I then waste even more time trying to figure out if I can still use what I've written because despite my years of half-hearted economics training, I'm still bedeviled by a reluctance to abandon sunk costs. Often the answer is no. Sometimes I still make a go of it, and you're forced to waste 10 seconds of your 3-minute visit reading this last paragraph.

Three minutes is actually higher than usual - mostly it's just one. Presumably because Sitemeter doesn't have the heart to say, "you're not posting very often, when you do, your writing is trite and unamusing, and people wouldn't visit at all if they didn't keep making typos when entering urls" and instead rounds up by about 59 seconds a visit.

All that being said - in general, do you find that you enjoy shorter posts more than long? Remember, this is only "in general" - my posts aren't going to change based on the whims of a fickle audience so there's no point in telling me how they're all the perfect size (sounds like the Armoire's love life!) The media would have us believe that our attention spans are shortening, and I can only presume that blogs and their bite-sized portions are contributing to it, but I know my readers are of above average intelligence and education, so I want to know their opinion.

In fact, the original idea behind this post was a quickie (sounds like the Armoire's love life!) - one line asking, "Do short posts get more responses than long ones?" but I seem incapable of self-control (sounds like the...oh you get the point) in my writing. Unless, of course, I'm drunk.
  • Current Music
    Jean Knight - "Mr. Big Stuff"

House Poor In More Ways Than One...

Last May I mentioned how much money I had already lost by selling stocks early to purchase my new house.

I thought I'd take another look at the damage because, well, I'm a bit of a masochist that way.

Here are the three stocks I covered back in May:

MMM (Three M) for $72.87
CL (Colgate-Palmolive) for $55.50
ADS (Consumer Loyalty Programs (eg. Air Miles) for $45.99

Back in May they were already worth:

MMM $87.01 (up $14.14)
CL $60.35 (up $4.85)
ADS $53.75 (up $7.76)

And now in January (yesterday's closing price), we see:

MMM $74.70   (+$   366 USD on 200 shares)
CL $67.42    (+$ 2,384 USD on 200 shares)
ADS $67.00   (+$10,505 USD on 500 shares)
Sigh. And of course, the US dollar has finally started going up against the Canadian, so I would have profited on that side as well.

On the plus side, I was totally incorrect about Workbrain, a stock I sold for $13.40 that now struggles at $10.81 - I'm $2,590 CAD richer for fleeing the stock. Had you followed the "invest in whatever Matt sells" advice, you'd have suffered a 15% loss. I can't even be right about being wrong!

Perhaps I did better with the stocks I sold closer to my June closing date? Not a chance. I was particularly stung by a recent comment in a local business magazine empathizing with those poor souls who liquidated in June only to miss out on the boom in stock prices in the latter half the year. Here are my other holdings that are now gone:

400 shares of MacDonald Dettweiler and Assoc. (MDA):     Sold $45.83   Current $49.00   (+$1,268)
300 shares of Manitoba Telecom (MBA):                    Sold $45.84   Current $47.00   (+$  348)
400 shares of Royal Bank (RY):                           Sold $45.00   Current $54.46   (+$3,784)
300 shares of Budweisser (BUD):                          Sold $45.09   Current $51.00   (+$1,773 USD)
200 shares of Microsoft (MSFT):                          Sold $22.02   Current $30.48   (+$1,692 USD)
500 shares of Paladin Labe (PLB):                        Sold $ 7.80   Current $11.20   (+$1,700)
300 shares of Triant Technologies (TNT):                 Sold $ 0.57   Current $ 2.33   (+$  528)

And one lucky one:

500 shares of Epcor Power LP investment trust (EP):      Sold $33.45   Current $26.62   (-$3,415)
Net: Roughly $8,200 less than if I had kept everything. And I actually sold Epcor Power after I bought the house (it was in my retirement account and couldn't be accessed) because recent performance was due to the high price in Natural Gas (which had collapsed) and a lot of revenue was dependent on the US Dollar (which I still don't trust). A rational call that was actually correct! Thus I'm actually out $11,500.

I should note, I still sold all but two of these at a profit, it just wasn't as much profit as I would have liked. The Royal Bank in particular is painful as it had just dipped from $50+ when I sold and Canadian bank stocks rarely stay down for long.

Now, one could argue that the return on my $650K house in the past six months may greatly exceed $11,500, or roughly 3.5% annualized. I have to admit, that's not entirely unreasonable, and I wouldn't accept an offer of $661,500 for the house if it was given to me. And I did keep hold of H&R Real Estate Investment Trust which has not only increased greatly to $25 from the $14 I purchased 1500 shares at many years ago, but has also been offering 5-8% returns in distributions for the past five years. Hopefully in six months you won't be reading about the collapse of the Canadian real estate market!

Wait a sec...I forgot to include those first three stocks at the top! Using the same 1.15 exchange rate, suddenly we're out an additional $15,000! That's not good as now my house had better have returned $53,000 or 8%. That's a bit trickier. And don't get me started on the $9,000 in interest I've already paid - luckily I get rent from my tenant to help cover that...oh wait, it appears that I don't.

What to conclude? Not much. I'm probably slightly worse off for purchasing a house, but I really have enjoyed living here (vists from the police notwithstanding). But now I've got some free cash again (retirement fund) and I need to invest! Do I dare? Or should I grab the first money market fund I can find and hide?

*Still* No Longer Computes...Or Does It?

Last April I mentioned how I was going to write more frequently by sacrificing a bit of quality. I didn't really do that.

In that same post, I also mentioned how I had turned to video games to alleviate the boredom of only being paid to work three days a week. I was back up to five for the latter half of the year but the money well has once again gone dry. Last year boredom took over three months to arrive. This year I'm ready to rant in late January. A bad sign.

And what are we ranting about? That's right, old video games. A man has to play to his audience, and 14 comments back in April says my viewing public loves stories about computers. Of course, almost every post that isn't about Magic gets about a dozen comments, so mostly people aren't picky so much as desperate for me to write something they can distract themselves with for a few seconds. I revel in your attention.

Back in April (check link above), I was having difficulty playing older games on my 1999 computer because it was too new. But I was also having trouble playing movies of Paris Hilton because my computer was too old. Rock. Hard Place. Only Panzer General II kept me from going mad and purchasing a new computer before this one had properly aged.

In June, noted Canadian Magic personality Gary Krakower was cleaning out his apartment and passed me two boxes of mid to late nineties video games that he had accumulated and no longer wished to play. Included in this treasure trove was Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, a game that I, a long time Civilization master, very much wished to play. Over the past six months, the Armoire has come to despite Alpha Centauri for sucking me away from what she feels are more things such as eating and sex. Can't the women see that millions of lives depend on my ability to micromanage their society into perfection? What is mere sensual pleasure when faced with that kind of responsibility?

[Pause to lick freshly baked cornbread crumbs out of the wrapper - the Armoire is baking!]

Having finally tired of Alpha Centauri (for now), I decided to investigate some of the other games that had been passed along to me. Here now are the trials and tribulations of attempting to play older video games, part II:

1) Star Command (1988)

Okay, this one is from WAY back - it came with both 3 1/2" and 5 1/4" diskettes! It was a holiday gift from my mother and ran on her original XT. I had fond memories of the game except I could never finish it due to a frustrating lock that I couldn't find the combination for. I was determined to play it again and defeat it with my much more experienced adult brain. The Armoire suggested just looking it up on the 'net, but I was certain that no one would have written about a game that was almost 20 years old.

I install the game with no problem and spend two hours creating characters and reviewing the manual. Five minutes later I turn it off and put it in the "Garage Sale" bin. I can handle text-only games - I played Rogue for years - but what I apparently cannot handle is really crappy EGA graphics. It was a bunch of dots and triangles and bad images - painful to the eyes. Apparently you can't ever go back again.


(Demonstrating the common-sense brilliance of the Armoire, further research revealed a complete walkthrough of the game that still didn't include how to discover the combination - perhaps one was supposed to guess?]

2) MYST (1995)

Myst was at one point the most popular video game of all time, especially among the ladies (quite an accomplishment). As an avid fan of sudokus, perhaps the Armoire and I could even puzzle it out together?

Not a chance. Myst requires Quicktime 2.0. Apple is currently infecting the world with Quicktime 7.1.3 which isn't supported for Windows 98. Quicktime Alternative, a substitute I found on the 'net, doesn't really work that well in general, and can't handle it.

Luckily, Myst actually comes with Quicktime 2.0 on the CD! Unluckily, it crashes when it attempts to install on my computer. I can wander the Myst world, but not view any of the video sequences which are apparently key to solving the problems. Off to the garage sale!

3) Master of Magic (1994)

After colonizing space for six months, as well as building characters for my ill-fated Star Command voyage, I was keen to try out a good old fantasy-based game. The manuals were thick and there was even a separate spell book! Master of Magic appeared to be the perfect combination of Civilization and Dungeons and Dragons.

It also required a whopping 2700KB of memory. Sure, my system has 384000KB of memory, but thanks to Bill Gates and the early DOS programmers, Master of Magic can't find any of it. A search of the 'net shows that many have suffered from this problem and the solutions range from creating and using a boot disk (I roll my eyes in disgust) to using a software program called DOSBox that will emulate a really old computer with messed up memory.

And it did exactly that, in a very small window at a speed it promised would be slightly faster than "glacial". I have a 19" monitor for a reason, and that reason is not to play video games slowly in a very small window. To the bin!

(and don't get me started on how I had to insert seven floppy disks to load the game - boy did *that* bring back memories...)

4) Master of Orion II - Battle At Antares (1996)

While researching Master of Magic solutions, I noted many references to Master of Orion being a later space-based version of the same game with an extremely large following. While a bit tired of space, at this point I just wanted to play something so I loaded it up. Having learned from my earlier mishaps, I decided to make sure it worked before wasting time reading about the game.

It installed. It worked. It looked incredibly rich with detail and subtle nuance - the sort of game that I could waste months of my life playing.

It also didn't have a manual.

See, I'm a guy that likes reading the manual. Not for me the rushing into the tutorial and the "I'll figure it out" mindset. I'm a cold calculating kind of guy who wants to know all of his options before he whips out his keyboard and begins the mesmerizing dance of the bits. Master of Orion II is not Doom (if I may date myself) where you pretty much shoot at everything and you've figured out the game, MOO II (as it's affectionately known by fans) is a complex multi-tiered game with a dozen different aspects listed just on the back of the box!

I search the 'net for documentation and as before, find nothing. Except for that one fortuitous time that I found the manuals for PG II, I've never been able to find good honest game documentation online. Quite frankly, even the so-called "strategy" guides look to be mostly written by teenage amateurs. I turn up my nose in disgust at what passes for Civilization and Alpha Centauri "strategy"! (I just had to get that out - I would so own those punks!)

5) Black and White (2001)

In frustration, I cheat and time travel to the next millenium where everyone has lots of memory and manuals actually exist. With a game that's actually younger younger than my computer, I now run the slightly different risk of insufficient resources, but I'm willing to take that chance if only I can actually start to play something!

I quickly flip through the manual while it is installing from the CD and see that you play the role of god. Good stuff, I'll be in my element. There's building of societies of worshippers, I like that. You fight other gods and their peoples, excellent. But there's a disturbing amount of excitement relating to training your "creature"...

Yup - Black and White, from what I could tell, is basically a pet-training game. Slap your monkey when it misbehaves. Stroke your monkey when it does good. Roll on your side with laughter at the funny monkey jokes. Do I really want to spend dozens of hours training a pet?

The answer is an emphatic "no". Especially when the interface was incredibly counter-intuitive. Move the mouse backwards to go forwards, move it up to go down, rotate it to the right to turn left, but if you move it straight right you'll sidle...right. While attempting to simply maneouver around to accomplish the simplest of tutorial missions, I got so frustrated I began yelling and throwing things.

Fun, I did not have. Play game, I did not.

6) Total Annihilation (1997)

Total Annihilation appears to have been on the cutting edge of multi-player play with much of the manual dedicated to connecting with a friend over a modem line. I chuckle at their primitive technology. But it did at least have a manual and it even installed properly!

Quick perusal of the manual indicated that the game was relatively simple and unfortunately centered on real-time play. If you'll recall from MOO II above, I'm a cold, calculatin' guy. When playing Railroad Tycoon I and II I would spend hours planning out routes and managing my trains only to actually turn on the game for 15-30 seconds before pausing and re-analyzing the entire situation. Watching me play games is rarely a captivating spectator sport.

But I was desperate. With only one more new game available, it was looking like I'd have to go back to Magic Online, and we all know that that won't turn out well. So I started up a campaign (by inserting CD#2 - why can't I ever just load everything onto my 80GB harddrive?).

Thirty seconds later, I had won the first scenario.

Granted, I didn't actually do anything except tell my dozen units to go North, but apparently that's all it took. They blew some stuff up, apparently some of them blew up, and half a minute later I was guarding the portal and being awarded points.

Hoping for a bit more interactivity, I reviewed the manual and found the pause button. I also found the button for "game speed". Starting again, I immediately froze the game and looked over my units. I examined the terrain, assigned the units different approaches to the target with the fast units scouting ahead and the heavier and long-range weaponry providing cover. Releasing the pause, I would allow small amounts of movement forward until an enemy was sighted, at which point all my commands would change and the target destroyed. Five minutes later, I won the scenario again, this time with one fewer loss and two fewer kills.

And I felt totally irrelevant. The only reason I won is that halfway through, I gave up on the specific orders and just had everyone rush the target again.

A game that wins without me is a game that doesn't need playing.

(At this point, I'm beginning to realize that beyond having them "actually work", I'm apparently quite particular when it comes to video games)

7) X-Com Apocalypse (1997)

"Help me X-Com Apocalypse, you're my only hope..."

I'm not sure what to make of X-Com Apocalypse. It's a space game, which isn't great, and while it offers turn-based combat, it seems to favour experiencing "blazing action with the incredible new real-time combat system" which we know I won't like. The manual is a flimsy little booklet called the "Rookies' Guide" which has me wondering just how engrossing it can be, but first we have to check if it works.

It does! It detects and tests my sound card successfully and we're ready to go. Did I want to read the "readme.txt" first? Why of course I did - you always want to be up on the latest changes. Luckily I did or I never would have noticed the correction to page 146 of the manual.

Pardon me? Page 146?

That's right - it appears that what I'm holding is "flavour" writing, the actual manual is a 150+ page behemoth of rules that must be read before one can play.

[insert anguished scream here]

I flee the computer in disappoinment and report my failure to the Armoire. She immediately begins baking cornbread to ease my pain. Best. Girlfriend. Ever.


Still with me? Good - for once things start looking up!

Thinking that X-Com Apocalypse may be recent enough to have a manual online, I do another search. One of the FAQs for the game LINKS ME TO THE MOTHERLODE:

A Website That Contains Nothing But Old Computer Game Manuals!

I am now a happy person.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow...

I was chatting with a good friend mere moments ago and he had an inspiring analogy that I will paraphrase and likely enrage slightly more than half of you with...

"Women" he said, "are like snowflakes. Beautiful and unique, with many a poem and song written about them."

"And from a distance, they all look the same; they quickly disappear; and there are millions more where that one came from. Did I mention they have tend to have pointy edges?"

No need to rush ladies, this buff romantic might be single for a while!

In other news, I'm a bit too tired to write about the things I've wanted to expound on for months now (books, classical music), but not in the mood for other forms of entertainment. I could regale you with how I bought twenty-five pounds of dirt yesterday for my nigh one hundred houseplants, but it lacks the gripping drama of a true epic, so perhaps that one is best left for local friends that lack a "Back" button.

I've decided to head off to Egypt with the Armoire next month and meet up with my sister who is heading into her final 18 weeks of travelling Northern Africa. I'm still reading the guides, but it looks like it will be fun as I love old ruins and deserts and they have plenty of both. Given the paucity of updates recently, I'd be surprised if you noticed I was missing!

Those of you who check out my User Info will see that I've updated my schools. In a late night surfing adventure, I looked up my various alma maters only to discover that I'm a spoiled private school brat! Until I was seven years old I attended what I thought was a regular school but has since turned into a $16,000 a year high-class elementary school with uniforms. All these years I've been pleading unfairness to mom for sending my littlest brother (17 years my junior) to UCC, the swankiest private school in town, while my sister and I enjoyed the public system. Little did I know that we've all suckled at the same spoiled rich kid teat! I have since noticed that it is much easier to look down on someone with your nose slightly in the air...

Current Events

Another relatively un-creative "update" post for those of you complaining I don't update (the number is shrinking, likely out of a lack of concern as I gradually drift away with the tide of life - woe is me!)

I've been a bit distracted by the tenant that came with my new house. When the Armoire gave up her lovely downtown condo to move in and prevent me from using my lovely wainscotted dining room as an office by insisting we would eat there (we did - once!), she found herself a tenant the "correct" way - by thoroughly checking references and doing credit checks and getting post-dated cheques and so on. By the book.

Despite my love of reading, I, on the other hand, was a bit looser on the restrictions and checking. The previous owner vouched for my tenant who he used to employ, and he seemed very quiet and friendly despite a once in a while enjoying a touch of weed (while my mom was over). He is a renovator who actually helped build my basement, so I figured the tenant even came with free fixin'! (not a minor thing when one is more software inclined than hard)

Little did I know.

You know those movies where the innocent and quiet guy turns out to be the serial killer?

Well, he hasn't killed anyone. Yet. That we know of. But some people have gone missing.

It turns out my tenant has a bit of a drinking problem. And a bit of a prison problem. By that I mean he's been to prison and last month got to go back and visit for a spell after violating a restraining order. In fact, the cops have been by the house four different times now, and twice we've had an ambulance with all the lights blaring. Once, my tenant's girlfriend got taken away in restraints while screaming at the top of her lungs, the other time she got taken away in handcuffs. They found her hiding naked in the closet clutching a bottle of vodka. She has a coke problem. Notice the small "c". She also has a problem making it through rehab. Or not stealing alcohol (but leaving the empty bottles with the caps on to fool us!) She's set fires in her past. She also has restraining orders against her.

Did I mention she's 59 years old? It's quite the pretty picture.

A loanshark that has offered to "help" evict my tenant. He's shown particular interest in the flat screen TV downstairs (I exaggerate only slightly). This offer was very tempting, but I've gone with the "triple eviction notices" plan instead. But as it is the two months before the holidays, evictions are impossible to get (and very expensive). I haven't collected rent since October, and I'm not sure I ever will (though I have a far-off hope that my tenant is telling the truth that he'll cover it when he can).

As you can imagine, it's been a bit tricky to find time for posting (or reading - let me know if anything particularly exciting has been happening in your life).

I'm also trying to squeeze 300 hours of contract time into November and December, which works out to 8 hours a day since I keep taking off for Magic tournaments and the like. I realize that this sounds "normal" for most of you, but I was doing three days a week for a year starting last July, and before that it was a rare month that saw me in the office for more than 100 hours. Both my Magic and video game lives are taking a hit, not to mention the "making time for romance" department! You don't want to know what I'm passing up right now to write and proofread this!

I did, however, finally purchase a bed so that the Armoire and I can share a boudoir (though I just looked it up and realize that it technically means "a woman's bedroom or private sitting room"). It cost upwards of four thousand dollars (mostly a gift!), but after five months of searching, we finally found the king-sized memory foam mattress that promised endless nights of sleep-filled bliss. It hasn't actually done any of that, of course, as the bed just doesn't feel the same here in the house as it did in the store. And having lived alone for over a decade, every time my sleeping ears hear another person they immediately assume there's a burglar and startle awake. (Numerous amorous adventures notwithstanding, I haven't slept well when sharing a mattress since the mid-90s) But the sentiment is good, except now I have to awake early because her loveliness likes to show up to work on time. Crankiness abounds.

In Magic, I came in 10th at PTQ on Saturday. I have an article on Magic theory writing itself in my head, but I suspect my usual employer has scheduled all the available spots until late Spring, so my head is where it will stay. I'm not particulary enthused about the game these past few weeks - I suspect it relates to Magic Online being a dog since last month and crashing every night. Thus a trip to Rochester or Detroit this weekend seems unlikely, especially as it conflicts with two holiday parties with open bars!

Speaking of parties, we held our annual holiday party on Saturday evening and as usual, the 16-year old Santa was a big hit with the ladies. My apologies if you weren't invited - things were a bit hectic (and quite frankly, I didn't even think of it). We had hoped to hit our 100-person guest limit but again were frustrated in the low 70s so I would have been happy to have more people eating all the food. Being coupled up really does cost you a lot of friends as we added a 4th host who invited 150 people and still barely met last year's numbers. I would have killed for these parties when I was single!

And before you think that all is complaining and woe, my job is going well. I'm enjoying the work, the expanded responsibilities and relationships, and I'm really making up for that lost rental income. Not sure if there's a long-term future in it, but I've been saying that for eight years now and it's getting better every year. I can only hope this continues!

[EDIT: It appears that not only am I not writing scintillating prose, I'm writing it twice! It's been so long since I last updated that I didn't realize I'd already covered some of this back in October. How embarrassing. Speaking of which, I know I didn't mention how the Armoire asked me how to spell my first name last month after only 26 months of dating. I guess the drugs finally wore off!]
  • Current Music
    Elvis Presley - "Jailhouse Rock"


I keep trying to use this journal as a venue for witty little articles and keeping my writing skills sharp, but I seem to have failed in that miserably since I moved to the new house. And I half-way suspect that what people *really* want to read are the random details of my life (because then they don't actually have to talk to me to know what's going on) and the odd Magic story (because there are so many of you out there).

Since I'm suffering from post-trip jet-lag, I'll update you on a couple of things (It's like I'm doing you a favour, but not!)

1. I went to Japan last weekend. I needed to win 4 of my first 6 matches and I lost the 6th one to end up 3-3. No $40,000 first prize for me. I then won a GPT on Saturday (smaller tournament) and then went 0-2 on Sunday at the PTQ (another tournament - they all have cool (?) acronyms like that). But I think I learned a lot, and I'm pretty sure I deserved to lose that 6th round, which is something you almost never hear from Magic players ("I was so unlucky!").

2. How was Japan? Boring. Japan, and Kobe in particular, don't hold a lot of interest for me. The culture doesn't fascinate me (it creeps me out a bit - way too many people on way too small an island), the historical buildings are all re-built imitations (result of earthquakes), and the food tends to be cold, slimy and tasteless (and un-satisfying portions). It was my 4th visit to Japan and unlike Europe, which grew on me after the first few looks, Japan remains flat. We were desperately trying to find something to do for 5-6 hours on Monday before we flew home. Any place that is that difficult to find fun in, isn't compelling.

3. My job? It's going okay. I've been working 5 days a week since July which is good because it means I'm flush with green and able to pay off my mortgage faster (while still responsibly topping up my RRSP). But after a year of working 3-4 days a week, it's taking quite a bit to get used to, which I didn't expect. Suddenly I have a lot less time just when I'm playing more Magic which gives the short straw to...

4. My relationship? Fantastic! My theory was that by moving in together, we'd have more time together and less time wasted travelling, or killing time at each other's place for a net gain on video game/Magic playing. It apparently doesn't work that way, and no one thought to let me know. I am certainly getting a better understanding of my married friends. The Armoire remains the most spectacular woman - she's incredibly patient and treats me incredibly well and I'm lucky to have her. I can be quite the selfish ass at times (surprise, surprise!), I'm anal, I'm overly critical, and yet she tolerates me. I'm that good in bed...

5. Okay fine, I'm not really that good in bed (you'll never know!) but I'm apparently fairly amusing. She makes me dinner, I make her laugh, and all is well. At least, I hope it is - sometimes her grins seems a bit forced. I can certainly see how one can begin to take your partner for granted. Now that she's hear for every meal, why would we go out for dinner? See a movie? But we can rent a video! Or better yet, just cuddle for a few minutes and then I can get back to what I was doing...

6. The house? Don't get me started on the house! If I thought relationships were easy, I at least knew the worst-case scenario for having tenants. Unfortunately I also seem to be living it (as opposed to The Armoire who rented our her condo to an absolutely wonderful woman who causes no trouble at all). The cops have only had to visit once to resolve a dispute between my tenant and his girlfriend, but boy is that not the way you want to meet the neighbours. The fighting and yelling and stealing of alcohol (oh yes, there was stealing of alcohol) has made it quite the dramatic living. Not so bad most of the time, but I can't say I'm really lovin' it.

7. Overall? I'm becoming a normal person. I have a full-time job (kind of), a house, a steady girlfriend - my (slightly?) wild and unpredictable life has become a little too average. There's nothing in particular I want to change about it, but I'm also fairly disturbed that I can pretty much spell out the next 20 years of my life. Anyone with a wife, house and job want to provide some insight? I had a bit of a mid-life crisis at 30 (thank goodness!) so I'm not sure I'm ready for another one just a few years later!
  • Current Music
    Evanescence - "Bring Me To Life"