pedanther: (Default)
1. I've been listening a lot lately to the podcast Film Reroll, which has the premise that each episode a group of people play a one-off roleplaying campaign based on a famous movie, just to see how far off course the plot can go when it depends on dice rolls and player imagination instead of having an author handing out plot points and making sure things pan out in the way they intend. Pretty far off course, it turns out; apart from the obvious consequences like people muffing their dice rolls really badly and everybody dying, one of my favourite examples so far is an episode where one of the players ended up sitting on the sidelines for the whole thing, because the plot took a direction early on that completely bypassed the character they'd been planning to play.

Another example is the campaign I've just finished listening to, The Wizard of Oz. It follows the movie fairly faithfully up until the protagonists meet the Wizard (though a bit more smoothly in some places, as the players get some good dice rolls in when facing the obstacles the Wicked Witch puts in their path) -- and then the players have to decide how best to tackle the job of stealing the Wicked Witch's broom for the Wizard, at which point the plot jumps dramatically off the rails, and the campaign ends up turning into a four-episode, eight-hour epic fantasy quest with cut-throat politics and dragons. Bits of it are amazingly poetic and surprisingly moving, and it's the one so far where I really felt at the end like I had been immersed in a story and not just been listening to a group of friends joking around. (Not that there's anything wrong with listening to a group of friends joking around; that describes most of the podcasts I listen to regularly.)


2. Our run of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has ended, as usual just when I felt I was really beginning to get the hang of it. (If I ever get to the end of a show and think, that's okay, there wasn't anything left to do here, that's when I'll really be sad.)

Next up is another production with a very long title, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado. It's this year's big production by the director who's done Oliver! and Chicago and suchlike in previous years, and I was actually quite looking forward to having nothing to do with it for a change, but then I was invited to come on board as assistant director and gets some hands-on experience in the running of a big production, and I didn't feel I could say no.


3. I got to go to exactly one meeting of the gaming group between the end of rehearsals for Spelling Bee and the beginning of rehearsals for Mikado, but I got to do the things I'd wanted to do, so that was good. As I mentioned last time, I had two games I wanted to play, and I got to play both.

Ingenious is an abstract pattern-based competitive game with a tricky scoring mechanic where each player is scored on several different criteria and only the lowest score counts, so if you get too focussed on building up on one score and neglect the others you can easily find yourself in real trouble. I started playing the app version last year and was sufficiently impressed by it to buy the physical game in the hope of finding people to play it with me. As it happened I found two, which made things interesting because the app version only does two-player games and so I'd never played a three-player game before. It turns out that, like many other games, it's rather more complicated and more difficult to get on top of with two opponents than with only one. I ended up not coming last, and considered myself well satisfied with my performance. The other two players seemed to enjoy themselves too, so I expect I'll take it along again another time.

Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, is a collaborative game in which the players are exploring an island for centuries-old lost treasures while dealing with the inconvenient fact that the island is rapidly sinking. (If memory serves, the manual claims that this is the result of an ancient booby trap set by the owners of the lost treasures, who apparently really didn't want them to be found again.) Mechanically, it's kind of like a more family friendly (less complicated, less worldwide catastrophe depicting) version of the collaborative game Pandemic, which is not a coincidence as they're both designed by Matt Leacock.


4. Recently the emergency jump start box in the car ran low on juice, which it announced by beeping loudly and regularly and loudly, which inspired me to drive directly home and look for the charge cable instead of stopping on the way to do the shopping as I'd intended. This prompted three observations:

First, that it was probably designed deliberately to make a loud and irritating noise clearly audible throughout the car specifically to make it impossible for its owner to contemplate putting off the job of recharging it, because it's not a good idea to put off charging a piece equipment you might need in an emergency. In which case, congratulations to the designer, it worked.

Secondly, while driving home I had cause to ponder the subjective nature of time, because the beeps didn't always seem regularly spaced; sometimes they seemed closer together, and other times further apart. The most convincing mechanism I've seen proposed for the subjective experience of time changing speed is that it's a function of memory; the same amount of information is coming in at the same rate all the time, but when nothing much is happening we don't bother to remember most of it, and then it seems like time has gone by really quickly, but when things get exciting more detail gets stored and then it seems in retrospect that the experience was stretched out more.

Thirdly, if I hadn't been able to find the charge cable when I got home, I'd have been stuck with a loudly beeping box that I had no way to shut up, and that would not have been fun. Here's where I benefited from some of the work I've been doing sorting my clutter into boxes. It took a few attempts to guess which box I would have sorted the charge cable into (gadgets and accessories? extension cords? stuff I'm going to put away as soon as I figure where it goes?) but it was still probably faster and less stressful than if I'd had nothing more to go on than "it's in this huge pile of clutter somewhere, probably".


5. We had the state election last weekend. Overall, it was a landslide victory for the Labor Party, which has been in opposition for the last eight years, and a crushing defeat for the Liberal-National coalition government. (Obligatory Aus politics footnote: The Liberal Party's name refers to their economic stance; they're conservative on social issues.) In my local electorate, the contest was much closer, to the point that we still, a week later, don't know exactly who the winner is. Normally by this point in a vote count it's clear who won and the rest of the ballot counting is just to find out by how much, but in this case it's split almost evenly between the three major party candidates, which never happens. In this case, the Labor candidate has the lift that his entire party's getting but is a newcomer to politics running against two well-known local identities with long track records in public service. The Libs' candidate may even have got a boost from his own party's misbehaviour, or rather from his response to it; a couple of times during the election campaign he got caught wrongfooted when his party announced policies that would have a signficant local effect without warning him first, and he wasn't shy about saying what he thought about that.

(In other news, the populist party that was expected to be a protest vote magnet did much worse in the election than expected, possibly because they were frankly and very visibly incompetent, with several of their candidates being kicked out of the party during the election campaign for doing things that a proper recruitment process ought to have caught ahead of time. It's all very well going "vote for us because you can't trust those professional politicians and we're not professionals", but being so utterly unprofessional inevitably invites people to wonder how you can be trusted to the run the place if you can't even hold the party together long enough to get over the finish line.)
pedanther: (science)
So, the last week has been interesting, computer-wise. (But there's a happy ending.)

It began when I finally got tired enough of the little ways in which my computer was showing its age to go and ask the computer guy if there was anything simple that could be done without going in for a whole new computer. The guy listened to my description of the problem, asked how old the computer was, and diagnosed that the hard drive was starting to wear out. I agreed to bring my computer in and have a new hard drive installed, after getting his assurance that he could shift everything straight from the old hard drive to the new one and everything would still be where I was used to finding it.

I took it in on a Wednesday. It took a couple of days to reach the head of the queue, during which time I made do without a desktop computer at home. On Friday, I got a call from the computer guy, who had started work on my computer and realised that it was older even than he'd gathered - and that's when things started to get interesting )
pedanther: (cheerful)
So, here's a thing that I wish I'd known an hour ago: Android devices' external/additional storage doesn't preserve a lot of the file properties I'm used to assuming a computer will keep track of. In particular, it doesn't keep a "file created" date or a "file last modified" date. (It does know one date, which is the file creation date if you created the file in that location on that device - if you moved it from another computer, or even from another folder on the same Android device, that's what date it remembers.)

The way I learned this was by moving a bunch of files onto my new Android device, and saving them to the external storage on the assumption that this was a sensible way to keep the internal storage free for important system files.

To be fair, I don't care about the file dates of all the files thus affected (and of those that I do care about, there's a significant chunk that I have backed up on a computer with a real file system, because I care about them in other ways too, so there is a place I can look up that information if I need it). But in a way, that just makes it more annoying, because it means that the significant files constitute a relatively small chunk of storage space, and I could easily and without any inconvenience have kept them in the device's internal storage if I'd known it would matter.

ETA: Or, on further investigation, perhaps not. Copying a file to the device's internal memory also loses a bunch of file property information and keeps only one file date, which is reset to the time the file was copied. The reason I didn't spot this immediately is that thereafter it functions as a "file last modified" date, updating each time the file is edited. Which is something, anyway, and for at least some of the files I was annoyed about is the thing that matters.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. This week I have five Christmas/end-of-year social events in six days; in no particular order: work, the Rep Club, the other theatre group that isn't the Rep Club, Toastmasters, and the brass band. Three of those have already happened, and all of them were on evenings when I would have had to give them a miss or leave early if I'd been in the Christmas Show, as I was saying last entry, which would have been regrettable.

Also on the list of things I'd have had to miss out on: going to see the WA Symphony Orchestra's annual public concert with the family. (Does that count as an end-of-year social event? I'm inclined to say not, because nobody fed me.)


2. The choral group I mentioned joining has finished up for the year. I've been enjoying it and will definitely be back next year.


3. I have been to two charity book sales recently. I donated a box of books to the first one, so I came out with a net decrease in the number of books taking up space in my house. Win!

A significant amount of the box I donated consisted of duplicate copies, many of them a result of seeing a book at a sale and going "I've always wanted a copy of that" and then finding when I got home that I already had one in the to-read pile. I managed to do it again at both of these sales, so I've already made a start on the next box...


4. So far since the new $5 note was released, I've only had one pass into my hands. It was weird and disconcerting and I spent it in the very next shop I went into so that I wouldn't have to keep looking at it.


5. At work, my computer finally got old and unreliable enough that the boss felt obliged to find room in the budget for a new one. This meant leapfrogging from Windows XP (yes, it was that old) to Windows 10, which despite my reservations has been relatively un-horrible. The worst of it were some initial issues with the wireless keyboard, which seem to have sorted themselves out, and a weird tendency to reboot itself without notice, which I think has been fixed now that I've tracked down the option switch that was set to "Reboot immediately after installing a system update" (the documentation says that that option will still wait until the computer is standing idle, but such was not my experience).

There's also the unanticipated side-effect that my computer at home, which had always felt speedy and powerful compared to the one at work, is now by comparison showing its age and small memory.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. At the gaming group this week, we played Carcassonne and Splendor. First we played a two-player game of Carcassonne, which I won convincingly, then another person arrived and we played a three-player game, which I lost even more convincingly. Then we played two three-player games of Splendor, and I lost both times.

At the end of the evening, everybody happened to finish up early except the role-playing group, who were in the middle of battling a kraken that was trying to sink their ship. I hung around to see how that turned out; how it turned out was that the kraken destroyed the ship, but the adventuring party did manage to rescue most of the people on board by stuffing them inside some kind of hammerspace pocket their wizard conjured up. On the one hand: Lots of survivors, yay! On the other hand: Lots of survivors stuck in a hammerspace pocket hovering in midair over open ocean with no chance of anybody happening along to rescue them... The wizard explained that he had a theoretically sound plan for getting everyone back to dry land in one piece, but the venue was closing up so we didn't get to find out yet how well that was going to go in practice.


2. The local music school runs a small choral group for adults that I've been vaguely aware for a while, but hadn't got around to checking out due to having other things on and general shyness about putting myself into new situations. Recently I've had some more free time due to not being in any shows at present, which happened to coincide with the beginning of a new school term, so it seemed like a good time to check it out. I am enjoying it so far.


3. In a rare burst of decluttering enthusiasm, I've done something about the pile of Things I Put Down For a Moment Intending to Deal With Them Later that was gradually engulfing my study. It's now sorted into three boxes: things to be put away when I figure out where they go, likewise but with a good chance I'll be wanting them again before then, and things that actually need dealing with. Next step: dealing with the things in the third box.

In a bit of carry-over, I also did a thing with the box that's been sitting in the kitchen since I moved in, which nominally contained things that needed to be unpacked in the kitchen. It's now been separated into a small box of things that really do need to be unpacked, and a larger box of things I never actually used in the old kitchen and don't see myself using in this one either. Next step: Figure out how to usefully get rid of the second and larger box.


4. The new online community platform Imzy recently moved from closed to open beta, in case anyone's interested in checking it out. (Can't have communities without people in, after all...) My impression is that so far the more broadly-drawn communities, like Fantasy, are making more of a go of it than the communities based on more specific topics, but that may change as more people get involved.


5. Fanfic rec: Working Backwards by Starlightify. In which Clark Kent wakes up in Lois Lane's bed and has to figure out how he got there, and also who Lois thought he was at the time. Normally I find stories with this kind of premise acutely embarrassing, but this is written with a great deal of warmth and empathy and I enjoyed it unreservedly.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Last night (Friday) we had a showcase night at the Rep Club, with members performing songs from various musicals -- ending, of course, with a couple from the upcoming production of Oliver!. I got called on to perform "Reviewing the Situation", which was a bit nerve-wracking, particularly since at the point where it was added to the program we hadn't actually got up to it in rehearsals. I'd been practicing it at home, but never with someone else accompanying, and it's the kind of song where that can make a difference. I did manage to get in some practice with the showcase night's accompanist, and in the event it went off well. The other performances were also good, and all in all it was a fun night.


2. Three weeks until Oliver! opens, which puts us into the traditional period for worrying about whether the whole thing will come together in time. We still haven't had any rehearsals with the pit orchestra yet, for one thing. I suspect the big test might be in about a week, when we start doing the head-to-tail run-throughs, and we find out how much the children still remember of Act One.


3. My current favorite author of DC superhero fanfic strikes again. The title of this one is Arm Candy, and the summary is: Where Bruce Wayne goes, models follow. It's almost a joke, the way he wears them like watches, girls too young for him hanging off his arms. It's a wonder he can even tell them apart. Both are ironic.


4. I did a piece of adulting recently that I was quite proud of. The venetian blinds on one of my windows weren't staying up, and I figured out that some of the brackets that held them in place had been twisted out of shape. I found a shop that sold replacement brackets, installed them, and re-hung the blinds all by myself. I even dealt calmly and collectedly with the part where I learned why the original installer had drilled two holes for one of the brackets, which I did by inadvertantly screwing the bracket into the wrong hole first and discovering, as the original installer presumably had, that when it was placed there it got in the way of the mechanism for raising and lowering the blinds.


5. The local high school's big production of the year was the musical Hairspray. I went along, and it was one of the most entertaining nights out I've had in a while.

(One thing I was a bit worried about going in was how they were going to handle the fact that a significant subset of the characters are African-American, a group that isn't represented in large numbers in these parts. Apparently, this is not an uncommon problem; there was actually a message in the show programme from the authors of the show saying that they encouraged high school productions to find creative solutions to it -- ie., absolutely not blackface -- and asked the audience to get into the spirit of the thing. In the event, what this production did was have all the white characters played by white actors and all characters who are people of colour played by actors who are people of colour, if not necessarily the colour originally intended. That seemed like a reasonable compromise.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Since I mentioned that the brass band was contesting at the Nationals, I suppose I should add that they came second in their grade, which is pretty good going considering (a) there were around a dozen bands in that grade, and (b) it's a grade up from where we competed last time.

But I wonder what it says that my immediate reaction to the news was a little voice somewhere inside me asserting confidently that they'd never have done so well if I'd gone and played with them.


2. I have now seen every episode of the original series of Star Trek, plugging an obvious gap in my geek credentials. I started at the same time Mark Watches did, nearly two years ago, but fell behind almost immediately because I wasn't willing to buy the DVDs just to watch them once, and this turned out to be a bad part of the world to borrow them. Star Trek wasn't available on any online streaming service in Australia at the time, and none of the local bricks-and-mortar video libraries had it, so I ended up relying on a mail-order video library that would only send them out one disc at a time and took a whole week to get the next disc to me when I sent the previous disc back. It was a considerable relief when one of the Australian streaming services finally started offering Star Trek, and I could knock off the second half of season three in under a month.

(And yes, "it has Star Trek" was literally the sole criterion I used to decide which streaming video service to sign up for. It wasn't a bad decision, though; the same provider also has the Australian streaming rights for Doctor Who, as well as a pretty large collection of shows I've always intended to watch some day but couldn't be bothered when the best option looked like being the mail-order video library.)


3. A little while ago I discovered a YouTube channel dedicated to Tiny Planets, an animated show that was one of my favourite things in the world when I was younger. I’ve been watching episodes on and off since, and it’s just as delightful as I remember it being. (In fact, it’s even more delightful, because the version on YouTube is without the intrusive narration that was added when it aired here.)


4. This week I finally got around to attending a meeting of the local gaming group, whose existence I learned of a bit over a year ago. I insist that this is partly their fault for giving the impression that they don't want new people to find them: before this week, the only evidence I'd seen of their existence was a single flyer on the wall of a shop that is itself quite hard to find. (They also have a Facebook page, I'm told, but it's not visible to people who don't have Facebook.) To be fair, they're not hurting for members; there was a pretty good crowd the night I went.

They cover a range of tabletop gaming areas: the meeting I went to had a table each devoted to an RPG campaign (Pathfinder), a miniature wargame (Warhammer 40K), and Magic: The Gathering, as well as several tables devoted to more casual boardgaming.

Not being the kind of person who's good at interposing myself, I hovered until one of the organisers noticed me and gave me the tour, then hovered some more until one of the boardgames finished and the people on that table invited me to join their next game. They turned out to be a pretty friendly bunch, and did a lot to counteract the uncertainty I was still feeling about whether I was welcome.

We played 7 Wonders (I came third) and Love Letter: Batman (I came dead last, partly because I was having too much fun to concentrate on strategy). Love Letter: Batman isn't as weird as it sounds, and doesn't actually involve any love letters: it's a spin-off of a game about deducing the location of a compromising letter, but in the Batman edition you're deducing the hiding places of villains instead.

Once I got past the nervous hovering I had a lot of fun, and I don't intend to wait a whole year before I go again.


5. The single best thing I've read recently is a fanfic called Empty Graves, which is the story of why you never hear about anybody going back in time and killing Superman when he was a defenceless two-year-old. (The short answer is Martha Kent. The long answer is more complicated, and ends in a brighter place than I was afraid it would when I was halfway through.)

 
pedanther: (cheerful)
For the "One letter, six questions" meme, [livejournal.com profile] lost_spook gave me the letter B.

Something I hate: Bitter flavours. In particular, there's a cluster of flavours which seem to be related by being derived from nuts or stone fruits, that taste unpleasant to me in a similar way: marzipan, pistachio ice cream, any sweet thing that's supposed to be cherry flavoured that isn't actual cherries. Used to be I couldn't stand them at all; now I can eat them if I have to, but I still really don't like them. (While writing this entry, I got curious and started googling, and it appears the culprit may be a compound with the thematically-appropriate name of benzaldehyde.)

Something I love: Ben Aaronovitch's novels. Not just his current series of detective novels, which is excellent, but also quite a lot of his early work. His first novel contains the only implementation of a particular plot device I've ever liked, and a point-of-view character I think there should be more of; his third novel is one of my favourite novels by anybody ever.

Somewhere I’ve been: Bavaria, where we spent a large amount of our trip to Europe at the end of last year. We saw Neuschwanstein, the castle that Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle was inspired by, from a distance, but by the time we got there the tours had ended for the day because we'd come the scenic route through the mountains. On the whole, I'm good with that; the scenery was really nice. On a more serious note (and not on the same day), we made a snap change in our itinerary when we realised we'd be passing within a few miles of Nuremberg, and went to see the permanent exhibit at the Nuremberg Documentation Centre, and that turned out to be, if this isn't a weird way to put it, one of the highlights of the trip.

Somewhere I’d like to go: Britain.

Someone I know: I have a friend named Bertie, and whatever mental image appeared in your head when you read the name is almost certainly wrong.

A film I like: You may be interested to learn that the three films currently at the top of my to-watch list are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Big Trouble in Little China, and Belle. But of course I don't know yet that I like any of those. The first one to come to mind that I have actually watched and can therefore pronounce on is Blazing Saddles.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Swancon soon! I haven't packed yet, because I usually do that after laundry day, so as to have the widest range of clothing options, and laundry day this week has been postponed because of rain. (Note to self: Go and bring the laundry in off the line once this is posted.)


2. The brass band is contesting at the Nationals again, but I'm not going with them; I've already missed one Swancon and most of another for the previous two occasions, and I feel that's quite enough. I went to all the rehearsals, though, because it's good practice and because the person who will be filling in for me won't be available until just before the contest, so until then it was useful to have someone filling in for them.


3. I've recently rewatched some episodes of Davies-era Doctor Who that I hadn't watched in years. (Part of the impetus was that the Verities are rewatching both first seasons of Doctor Who for their podcast this year.) The stories and performances hold up pretty well, and I don't think any of the special effects struck me as fake-looking that didn't already the first time, but the incidental music! I remember, back in the day, there were a lot of complaints about Murray Gold's music being obtrusive; it never seemed so to me then, but it does now.


4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on TV last week, the 1992 comedy film version, and I'd never watched it all the way through before, so I did, and now I kind of want to see the Yuletide Buffy fanfic we'd be getting if there'd never been the TV series afterward. There are all these hooks in the movie that everyone ignores now because the TV series went a different direction, like the idea that there's just one Watcher and one Slayer, endlessly reincarnated. Or even Buffy's ludicrously uninvolved parents - imagine what a fanfic exploration of that could be like... (I tried looking at AO3 to see if it had any movie Buffy fic, but all I found was a bit of Pike/Benny slash and a lot of TV Buffy fans who don't understand how fandom tags work.)


5. At Mark Reads, Mark has just finished reading all of Tamora Pierce's novels, and is just about to embark on Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. I was really keen on those when I was around the same age as the protagonists, but I've never re-read any of them, so that'll be interesting. (Actually, I've started re-reading the first one already, and it's holding up pretty well so far.)

ETA: 5a. Mark is, of course, also still reading through the Discworld series. He's just started on Interesting Times; it makes an... intriguing accompaniment to Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori, which I'm reading as homework for Swancon.
 
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Theatre News (subclass Acting in the):

As you may have guessed from the fiction log, the Rep Club's next big production will be the musical Oliver!. I've been in a bunch of musicals for the same director over the last decade or so, so I had what turned out to be the shortest audition I've ever done - didn't need to monologue, didn't need to sing, didn't need to dance, just needed to answer one question. I was a bit disappointed about the singing, since I'd put quite a bit of effort into my audition piece, but in the circumstances I think I'll survive.

The one question was: "Do you feel up to taking on the role of Fagin?"


2. Toastmasters News:

I entered both the Evaluation contest and the International Speech contest this year. The International Speech contest is the feeder contest for the World Championship of Public Speaking, and I've never entered it before. I only entered it this year because I gave a project speech last year which several people spontaneously told me was good enough for the contest, and because being a contestant meant I was exempt from being made to help organise it.

I won both contests at the club level, but at the area level I was beaten by the respective entrants from the college students' club. In a way, that was a relief, because it means I don't have to worry about finding time out of Oliver! rehearsals to attend the division and district contests. Let alone how inconvenient it would have been to qualify for the World Championship - not that I think that would have happened; the speech wasn't that good.


4. Theatre News (subclass Going to the):

I went to Perth to see The Lion King with my sister before it closed, because I've heard so much about how it's staged and who knows if it'll ever come this way again. There were bits that didn't quite work, but it was an impressive experience and on the whole I'm glad I went. Some of the puppets were astonishing. (Also astonishing, in a different way: the antipodean actor playing Timon's attempt at a New Jersey accent, which drifted as far south as Texas at one point.)

One side-note on the trip: It was the first time I'd been on the train since my international jetsetting Christmas holiday. Until I spent all that time on aeroplanes, I'd never really appreciated how much legroom you get on the train.


4. TV News:

The third season of Sherlock has aired here - actually, it aired last year, but then it was on against Foyle's War; this time it wasn't, and I had to decide whether I actually wanted to watch it. After carefully considering everything I'd heard about the third season and the Christmas special, I decided I didn't.

Also, the third season of Agents of SHIELD has started airing here; I watched a few episodes, then realised I wasn't actually all that interested, and stopped.

In happier TV news, the revived Danger Mouse started airing here this week, and I'm enjoying it immensely.


5. Theatre News (subclass Movie):

When I went to see The Force Awakens for the second time, it was preceded by a long trailer for the upcoming Batman/Superman movie. It kind of left me feeling like I'd seen the whole movie, and pretty much confirmed that I have no interest in actually seeing the whole movie.

Which leads me to a second side-note about my recent train trip: At one point, when I wasn't feeling motivated to do anything more brain-intensive, I watched the in-flight (if that's the word) movie, which was The Man From UNCLE. I have no idea how well it serves as an adaptation of the TV series, which I've never seen (yes, it's a shocking lacuna), but at one point I found myself thinking that Henry Cavill would probably do pretty well if he were cast as Superman, before remembering that he had been.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Veselé Vánoce!

I'm in a picturesque* medieval town in the Czech Republic** for Christmas Day. The forecast is warm and sunny, with a continued absence of snow.

*In both the traditional and Pratchettian meanings of the word.

**We came here from Prague via Vienna, so I've added Austria to my life list too. That's it for now, though; the foreseeable future contains only countries I've already been to.
pedanther: (cheerful)
After spending my entire life to this point in the land of my birth, I've racked up three new countries in three days: Singapore on Wednesday (if it counts when I never stepped outside the airport), Germany on Thursday, and the Czech Republic on Friday. We're not keeping up that pace for the whole trip; we'll be basing ourselves in Prague for a while. Today, we're planning a day trip out to Kutna Hora.

More detailed account to follow if I can find the time.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. My passport has been issued, which is the point at which I decided I was going to accept this is a thing that's actually happening:

In December I'm going to visit Germany, and also Austria and the Czech Republic, with a group of friends, to see this "White Christmas" thing everybody's written so many songs about.

This is a bit exciting, because the closest I've been to overseas before now is Rottnest Island.


2. Rehearsals for the Christmas show continue. Sometimes I think it's going really well, other times I'm horrified at how much there is left to do. Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse...


3. What with one thing and another - specifically, the two things mentioned above - I haven't signed up for Yuletide this year and it doesn't seem likely I'll end up contributing. My creative wossnames are currently all tied up in the Christmas show, and I'll be travelling, with uncertain internet prospects, during the all-important Eleventh Hour Crunch. Best wishes to everyone on my friendslist who is taking part this year.


4. Went to see Justin Kurzel's new film version of Macbeth, which has been getting impressive reviews, and now I'm horribly tempted to describe it using the phrase "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", which wouldn't really be fair. For one thing, one of the problems I had with it was that there are several points where I think a bit of sound and fury was just what we needed and didn't get. For another, it's full of things that are clearly Significant - it's saturated with Significance, to the point that the whole experience ended up feeling rather smothered - I just don't think that in the end they added up to anything coherent.

(Also, on a more nitpicky note, there were several places that hit one of my directorial peeves, where the dialogue says one thing and the action shows something else. This was particularly annoying since it's a production that's not afraid to prune big chunks of dialogue out, or even occasionally to change a line, with no good effect on the rhyme or the scansion. If you're going that far, then either do something about the line that contradicts your vision, or if the line is too important to be done away with, consider that that might mean your vision might need adjusting...)


5. Every time I get my hair cut, I seem to end up with more forehead than I had before.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. There are 18 novels and a bit over twice that many short stories set in the Liaden Universe, and yesterday I finished reading through them all one after the other. It took me a bit over two years, although that's mainly because I was blogging each chapter or story as I read it, which meant I couldn't read the next one until I'd thought of something to say. Without that restriction, I'd have got through them much quicker, but then I'd have probably missed a lot of things I noticed on this re-read.


2. Rehearsals have begun for the Christmas Show. I was nervous before the first rehearsal - I was running it alone because my co-runner couldn't make it, and although I'd only called half the cast that still meant more actors than every play I've directed before now put together - but it seemed to go all right. And seeing them moving around the stage helped me figure out what the set should look like in the first scene. (Note to self: Draw a diagram of that.)


3. I seem to have become a morning person now. I'm regularly waking up a couple of hours before work (or the equivalent time on weekends) without any artificial assistance, and regularly feeling sleepy and going to bed about eight hours before that. I do wonder if it has anything to do with spring and the sun coming up earlier; it'll be interesting to see what happens when the days start getting shorter again.


4. I haven't mentioned Doctor Who Legacy in while; not since I reached the end of the first "season" and concluded that it still didn't have anything resembling a plot. In fairness, therefore, I should note that it does develop an actual plot toward the end of the second "season", though the connection between the story elements and the actual gameplay remains tenuous to non-existent.


5. My new favourite podcast is I Was There Too, which explores the world of movie-making through the perspectives of people who had tiny roles in big movies. Guests have included the first marine to die in Aliens, the woman with the baby carriage in The Untouchables, the Apple Store clerk in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and, in a special group interview, all those other people on the bus in Speed.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Achievement Unlocked: Preheated the Oven
Achievement Unlocked: Heated the Frozen Dinner
Achievement Unlocked: Lesson Learned - the Picture On the Packet Means Nothing
pedanther: (cheerful)
Note to self: This list of symptoms of iodine deficiency looks remarkably like my answer to the question "How have you been lately?"
pedanther: (cheerful)
Spent the evening feeling cheerful and relaxed and generally as if a great weight of responsibility had been removed from my shoulders. Not, this time, because something had ended, but because something had finally properly begun.

Today was the first production team meeting for the annual Christmas show, which, as I think I've mentioned, I'm directing this year. Up until now, as the only confirmed member of the production team, I've been feeling as if all the responsibility for the show was resting on me, which was not very comfortable. Now I know that I'm sharing it with a group of people who are just as enthusiastic about the show as I am, and who have abilities to contribute in areas that would have been disasters if they'd been left to me.

It's amazing how much difference it makes, knowing that you're not on your own.
pedanther: (cheerful)
I woke up this morning feeling cheerful and relaxed and generally as if a great weight of responsibility had been removed from my shoulders. This was because one had.

For each Toastmasters meeting, there's one person for running the meeting, and yesterday's meeting it was my turn. The actual meeting-running bit - introducing people, keeping the event flowing, that sort of thing - wasn't a problem, but the role also includes the preparation work - finding people to fill the meeting roles, finding out who's going to be there and who isn't, and so on - and although it turned out all right in the end this time, I always find that part painful and difficult.

Part of it is low-level stuff like the fact that involves a lot of telephoning people, which is something I always dread unless I'm phoning somebody I know really well. (One of the guys at Toastmasters says this is because I have a DISC C personality and C personalities always have trouble with phones because they depend on body language in conversations. He's a professional life coach, so he says stuff like that a lot.) In this case, that was exacerbated by the fact that this was a meeting of the new dinner-meeting club, so I really don't know most of the members yet.

But it's also because planning and arranging the meeting is the kind of large and complicated task that is best broken into bits and spread out over several weeks, and that's a skill set I've never really learned. When I was a kid, the world was divided into things I found easy to do and things I wasn't interested in doing, but I was a smart kid and the pool of things I found easy to do was large enough to get me most of the way through high school, in the advanced stream even, before I started running aground on things I didn't find easy but needed to do anyway. (Ugh, essays. In retrospect, I feel sorry for my English tutor; she was probably good at helping people learn English, but that wasn't actually the thing I needed help learning, and we never got on.)

I'm still getting a handle on the shape of the problem, never mind managing to figure out where I can learn to fix it, and in the mean time what I usually do is procrastinate wildly until the shadow of the deadline looms over me, and then panic and try to get the whole thing done in the last 24 or 48 hours. And, because I'm still quite smart, that often works. Or at least doesn't fall apart too badly. On anything that's really mattered. At least, anything that I wasn't able to convince myself afterward didn't really matter.

And it's probably best not to look too hard at what happens when there isn't a set deadline to give me that kickstart...
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. A signal boost I had intended to do sooner: August is [livejournal.com profile] naarmamo, National Art Making Month:


Basically in August we hope to make one piece of art every day. NOT NECESSARILY VERY GOOD ART. But a finished achievement of artistic endeavour.

A picture, a painting, a photo, an icon, a sketch, stick figures, a line on a page, a model, a sculpture, a finger painting, a finger print, a song, a poem, an interpretive dance, a bruise, a something. We are surprisingly non-judgey about what counts as art :)

And it really doesn't have to be very good. I try to stress that quite a lot. There are people here who have never drawn a thing, people who only ever do art in August, people who are very much doing it for fun rather than greatness. There are also people who are very good at art indeed, but who still find it a challenge to devote time to it every single day. Don't be intimidated, it's all good.

With it being every day for a month, the emphasis is much more on getting something done rather than getting it done particularly well.


I'm thinking of giving it a go this year.


2. I have been to the gym at least once a week since I mentioned I'd started going again. I might like to have managed more often, but it's still a good deal better than not going at all.


3. Every now and again somebody will try to get a theatre improv group up and running here, and I'm always there when they do, and usually there'll be a workshop or two and maybe a performance evening and then nothing until the next time.

This time, we might be on to something. The people running it got organised and arranged a series of workshops over the weeks leading up to the first performance night, some of them at different times of week so people who couldn't make it to some could make it to others, and even though only half the people who attended workshops were available and willing to perform on the night that was enough. (And the fact that it's people, plural, running it this time is I think also an important factor. They're both people who've tried individually before and not got far; by joining forces they're able to cover each other. The fact that they could offer workshops on nights that one or the other wasn't able to be there is not the most subtle example of that, but it's not the least important either.)

The performance night went really well, and it looks like we've got enough momentum going to do another set of workshops and another performance night soon. (Quite a lot of people had praise for my performance in particular, which was nice, but I don't think that's really the most important thing. And, as I tried to explain to some of them, improv is really a team effort and any standout performance is being invisibly supported by the efforts of everybody else in the scene.)


4. And that's pretty much the only acting I've got done so far this year, because the opportunities for acting in regular productions have tended to clash with other commitments. Including, as I've mentioned, the fact that I couldn't act in the short play season because I was busy directing one of the plays.

I don't think I've mentioned yet that I will busy directing again later this year, as I've been tapped on the shoulder to direct the Christmas show. We'll be doing a pantomime called Humpty Dumpty: The Egg's Files, which I've noticed is somewhat awkwardly titled; if you know the plot you can see where the title comes from, but if all you know is the title it's probably giving you the wrong idea about the plot. It's about a small egg-shaped robot who has been entrusted with certain secret files which might help the noble rebels overthrow the evil Galactic Empress (and her chief enforcer, who wears a face-concealing mask and breathes noisily).

It seemed like a good time to revive it, considering what else is being revived this December.


5. It's one of the lesser-known laws of nature that any arbitrarily-selected quiz night team that includes me will always come second. It happened again last night. I also won a spot prize with my rendition of "That's a Moray", and took the third prize in the big raffle. And, more importantly, had a lot of fun spending an evening hanging out with friends. It was a good night all round.
pedanther: (cheerful)
The other thing that's been keeping me busy this month is that I moved house.

I didn't say anything about it before it happened because until I'd actually moved it didn't feel quite real, the way it sometimes goes when you're making a permanent change to a six-years-fixed part of your life; there was a part of me convinced that something was going to happen at the last minute and it would all be called off. And then of course once I had moved, there was the saga of Not Having Any Internet.

Come to think of it, having no internet may have helped a bit, in that a working internet would have been a serious temptation to distraction from packing and unpacking. Not that I'm inclined to be any more forgiving to the telephone company and the internet company on that account.

The new house is quite a bit nicer, and in particular less of an agglomeration of things needing replacing, than the old house, which is one of the reasons for the move. The other is that the old neighbourhood was turning into somewhere I didn't feel safe. I've had several people tell me that this neighbourhood, or at least some neighbourhood in this general vicinity, has a bad reputation, but frankly it would have to pull out a few stops to get near the old neighbourhood, and so far at least it doesn't seem inclined to make that effort.

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