Tag: john’s projects
Nothing can stay the same forever. Eventually, things have to change. Games are no different, although nowadays the changes are as minor as they are high-profile. Take Scrabble. A few years ago the world was in an uproar over the fact that “Scrabble will allow proper nouns”. What wasn’t included in the outrage was the fact that it applied only to a specific variant of Scrabble. Meanwhile, Hasbro had been mucking around with games for years: Risk, Clue, and Monopoly had all received minor revamps, often for the better (the so-called “Black Ops” rules for Risk make the game much, much faster and more enjoyable). It’s not even anything new: the copy of The Game of Life that my parents first bought in the late 80′s was nothing like the version that was in stores just a year or so later, and even the current version bears little resemblance.
The games we play today will not be the same games we play tomorrow. Few modern games have the sheer staying power to remain unchanging and unchallenged for more than about a decade, and those wind up mostly being card games. Uno is still the same game that it was twenty-five years ago, and poker has enough established variants to stay more or less evergreen. But if you contrast that to something like Magic: The Gathering– which is defined by its ever-evolving ruleset and constantly-shifting balance– you can see that change is inevitable.
Still, changing the game is good. It prompts innovation and forces people to use new strategies– often as quickly as they can devise them. There’s no thrill quite like being able to turn the tables on an opponent who’s stuck in the “old ways” of thinking about the game. Likewise, a game that changes itself can often find new players, or bring lapsed ones back into the fold. My hiatus from Magic has served to help me sharpen my focus and figure out just exactly what I want out of the game; I have a newfound respect for Standard-format, seeing it less as a money treadmill and more as a way to keep the game fresh and competitive. Likewise, Pez has come back to Magic with the intent of resuming his previous M.O.– conquering foes with combinations so out there that they can barely be predicted; he just has new cards and new ways to accomplish this.
It’s not really fair to say that gaming is a stagnant activity, because quite frankly it never sits still long enough to stagnate.
Part of why I’m looking forward to showing off the Wintermourne 516th is because of the end of the latest chapter in the Warhammer 40,000 timeline. The game’s sixth edition rules are expected to be released in the middle of summer (probably on or after Games Day, July 28th), and because of it there’s a lot of upheaval expected in the game. (Warhammer Fantasy got its eighth edition rules in late 2010, prompting me to start looking at the Bretonnians– which is its own blog post for a later time, such as whenever Games Workshop gets around to issuing a new army book for them.) But one thing is known for sure: everything is going to change, and it may not be for the better for every army– or even the game itself.
This uncertainty is compounded with the veil of secrecy that’s surrounded Games Workshop in the last few months. Most of the speculation is that the rumormongering was put to an abrupt halt with the upcoming release of the tie-in game for The Hobbit, while others say that it’s a protectionst move based on the jump to the resin Finecast miniatures enacted last year (which prompted a lot of grumbling). In any event, whereas this time last year there was a clear schedule, there is not one now, and it’s starting to alienate some players who have been waiting for updates to their armies. (I’ve railed on that topic before, so no need to get into it again now.)
The thing is, this is very much an unprecedented move for Games Workshop and 40K in general. If the most reliable and recurring batch of rumors is to be believed, Sixth Edition will be a revolutionary change for how the game is played, as opposed to the evolutionary changes that have been the norm in the past. When Fifth Edition was released in 2008, the changes from Fourth were very minor: you still basically knew how to play, but some rules were simplified and the basic structure remained the same. Sixth Edition seems to offer a radical change to how almost everything in the game works; even the very composition of armies is on the chopping block. GW is taking the tactic that nothing is sacred, apparently.
And that’s perfectly fine with me. To be frank, even discounting the fact that I’m playing “outdated” armies (Orks and Tau both use 4th Edition codexes, while the Imperial Guard were one of the first 5th Edition books), 40K as it stands now is horribly broken. In some ways I’m looking to how Fantasy evolved, eliminating the “you can’t touch me” aspect that bugs me most about 40K; in Fifth Edition, a Guardsman with a lasgun cannot possibly scratch a Dark Eldar Talos Pain Engine, and will have a damnable time even getting the chance to score a wound against lesser foes; the advantage of having a hailstorm of fire is effectively negated if it’s impossible to damage a target with it. I think there should be a chance for a lucky shot to get through now and again, with the countervaling defense being armour saves and invulnerable saves. The rumors are that in Sixth, there will be that chance for all armies (and not just my poor mooks with their flashlights and t-shirts).
In about six weeks, I’ll be attending a small tournament at Legions called the “Farewell To Fifth”. It’s a three-round Warhammer 40,000 tournament, and will be the reintroduction of the Wintermourne 516th Garrison of the Imperial Guard. I say “reintroduction” because it’ll be the first event the army takes part in whilst fully painted. Snake Eyes Gaming– a club I’m seriously considering joining, as soon as I start playing more often– has always put on some great events, and I expect this one to be no different.
In some ways, what’s been going on with my 40K habits has been at least in part their fault. I mean that, of course, in the best way possible, but it’s still the truth. The guys at Snake Eyes introduced me to the game back at the end of 2009 with the beginner’s tournament, then kept me going throughout 2010 with the Defense of Nekar Quintus Planetstrike campaign (which, sadly, I had to bow out of early due to the move). But what was really fascinating about all of it was that throughout every event and casual game I played with them, I never felt like I wasn’t good enough to be playing against them. The Snake Eyes crew has encouraged me to learn more and work harder towards increasing the enjoyment I get out of 40K, and with any luck that’s only going to get better.
The painting project is an excellent example of this. I finished up my Tau collection around the end of 2011, and was able to deploy a fully-painted battleforce box (plus a couple extras) without having to worry about it not looking good enough. The Snake Eyes guys gave me some gentle criticism in the hopes of improving my work, and for that I was greatly appreciative. But the biggest thing that it got me to do was believe that I could actually do up the massive amounts of Imperial Guard that I’d put together, primed, and then felt overwhelmed by. So, at the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal, and now I’m about to hit it– much earlier than I anticipated.
As nostalgic as it would be to bust out the Moleskine and page-a-day, I knew on Wednesday that there had to be a better and easier way. I looked at how I was handling the day-to-day tracking of my weight plan and found that I could very easily upgrade how I managed things, especially considering that I had a much more sophisticated piece of equipment on me at all times– my smartphone. As always, I’m very iOS-centric, so Android users may need to adapt to different tools. Your mileage may vary. Also, as you should no doubt be aware, this is merely what worked for me: if you want to start a diet, do your homework first and/or see a doctor.
The first thing I did was digitize my “burndown” chart. This is the table of values that I set up in 2006 to track my daily weigh-ins and current status towards my goal. It started off as a fairly simple chart: just my weight for the day, with a little bit of math to determine my change over the last 24 hours and the cumulative loss. Turning it into a spreadsheet using Numbers was a great idea. I now have a very simple entry form where I can enter my weight and time spent exercising, and see an instant readout of the daily and cumulative changes. However, things get interesting with the “Math” form. With the press of a button I can add the day’s numbers to a rolling set of larger statistics, augmenting a charts page which visually shows me how I’m doing. I’ve also added a measure of how well my metabolism is working, in the hopes that it’ll prove my suspicion that it got easier to lose weight as I stayed on the wagon.
Next, I needed a tool to count my intake points. This would be the culmination of a search I’ve had ongoing for a few years now– a basic counter app would work just fine. I found the rather spartan Counter+, which does what it does very well. There’s a few issues with its interface, but by and large it doesn’t need to be anything terribly flashy. In order to augment this, though, I needed a calorie counting program. I’m still looking for a better replacement for my old Moleskine and its list, but right now the MyFitnessPal app seems to be a strong contender. The big priorities here are being able to handle a lot of different fast food places as well as keeping that information relatively up-to-date. If I’m cooking at home, I’ll probably stick to the calorie book I bought back in ’06: rice doesn’t get reformulated much.
Finally, in order to spur on some of the metabolism boosts I’m looking for, I decided to pull the trigger on a gym membership again. I last had a membership in ’08 and kept up with that for, you guessed it, about four months. I didn’t go for the full contract-year this time, instead taking a weekly membership to make sure I can actually stick with it. Plus, this is a nicer facility with much better hours (as in I’m going to be going in the morning in order to make sure I actually do it) and closer to home. With a little bit of effort I can make this work.
That’s the plan, boys and girls. Let’s see how far we get.
It’s hardly a secret to say that I like food. In point of fact, I like food a little too much for my general level of activity. This is something that I’ve felt I need to fix for a very long time, and back in Cleveland (at what I would later realize was the lowest point of my depression) I made an attempt towards doing so. This was a rather difficult thing to do, because of the aforementioned lifestyle: coders tend towards very fat or very skinny, either because they’re constantly eating at their desks or completely forgetting to eat.
So, in the first third of 2006, I made a resolution: I was going to lose some weight. I had set myself to a goal of losing 50 pounds, and I was honestly making great strides to it. While I didn’t make my goal before I lost motivation (which was due to a combination of a pig-out session at Tekkoshocon and an uneven meal schedule during E3), I still pulled 40 pounds off of my frame and dropped a couple of inches from my waistline. This was an incredible accomplishment for me, and because of it I was able to make the first steps towards getting out of my funk.
Whenever I tell the story, people ask me how I did it. The answer is depressingly simple: I counted calories religiously and forced myself to exercise. Because of the way my job was structured, I had the later shift, but I still was waking up rather early. This meant that I had an hour or so before I showered to take a long walk. I started with just about a half-mile, but as time went on I moved up to a mile, then two. This was greatly helped by the fact that I had a route which was flat, and long enough to be visually diverse no matter how I extended it; there’s only so many times you can lap around the same building before it gets old. I did that walk every day.
As for the calories, I changed how things were handled. Anything that was less than 10 calories “didn’t count” unless I was eating enough of them to push over that threshold. Meals, then, were based on a “points” structure: ten calories were one point, and at least some of them had to come from a “healthy” source. I transcribed calorie counts from a thick paperback into a smaller Moleskine notebook, and kept track of my daily counts on a page-a-day calendar. As long as I was under my target goal for the day– which was 150 points– I was good.
Believe it or not, this worked wonderfully while I kept it up. I don’t have the notes from those three months anymore (I started in late January and was off the wagon by May), but I do know that by the time I was in full swing, I was losing half a pound a day, and feeling much better. More to the point, it allowed for one “cheat day” a week: on Saturdays I would go into Macedonia and play DDR for about an hour or so, then get a big meal at Long Yun’s Mongolian BBQ and watch a movie or two in the theater. Not being on the clock the entire time made it rather bearable.
Over the last week, I’ve started to think that I need to restart the plan. It’s made much easier now that I’m less restricted in terms of what I can eat, so now I can focus on controlling how much. And that started yesterday.
This past weekend I took some time to work on a rough outline for how Nerdery is going to be structured. A lot of it had to do with how much I wanted to pull from Jane McGonigal’s fantastic Reality Is Broken– which I realize I need to write a review of, too– but a bit more of it also had to do with the fact that, for as all-encompassing a topic as general nerdery is, I really only focus on a few major aspects of it.
The other part of it, though, is getting over the feeling that I’ve gone over this stuff before. After all, Nerdery is the culmination of well over ten years’ worth of essays, private and public, and so going over it all again is pretty much a necessity. For as much of it as I end up doing, I really dislike repeating myself. Ultimately, this means I have to just suck it up for the sake of making a greater point. The outline also helps me focus my thoughts so that I can approach each essay with at least the illusion of it being something new and unique to me.
In the end, I decided on structuring the book into four parts, not counting the inevitable introduction and conclusion chapters:
In Part One, I’m going to explore what it means to be a nerd. I’ll look at the origin of the word and concept, the history of how nerds are portrayed in media and culture, and see how it evolved into what it is today.
In Part Two, I’ll focus on the negative aspects of being a nerd. I’ll discuss the bias against intellect in society today, how being a nerd can be personally and collectively detrimental, and go over a couple of high-profile incidents where someone was targeted for being too smart.
In Part Three, I’ll flip the argument around and declare why being a nerd isn’t entirely a bad thing. I’ll focus primarily on why people choose to self-identify as nerds, what high intellect can do to help a community, and discuss how celebrities are embracing nerdery.
And in Part Four, I’m going to discuss what can be done to eliminate the stereotype of being a nerd. I’ll focus on why it was never actually relevant, why it’s constantly evolving, and how the world will be much better once there are no more “nerds”.
If it sounds like there’s a lot to go over, and if it sounds like people really aren’t going to like a lot of what I have to say (I imagine parts three and four are going to raise the most hackles), good. Ambition goes hand in hand with intellect and nerdery. And, despite what the essay at the beginning of this week would have you think, I have absolutely no qualms about failing quite publicly.
My next major goal is to have a draft of the book done by the end of summer; I’d like to shoot for October 1st as a draft deadline. This gives me time to crank out one long-form essay each weekend until then, while accounting for time for revisions and some mild editing. The essays are going to be written privately– that is, not shared with anyone just yet. However, I’m likely to share snippets of thoughts as blog posts now and again. If I get done with painting up my miniatures early, I may repurpose the Saturday morning disconnection time into a writing-only period, using my laptop while turning its Wifi off.
It’s on, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s get down and nerdy.
It frustrates my friends and family to no end when I start writing about stuff that’s going on “behind the scenes”, without actually referring to any of it. This is a problem that’s only exaggerated by my increasingly-frequent bouts of radio silence. The fact that I also dropped the bombshell of depression on you all earlier this year doesn’t exactly help to reassure a lot of you, either. The only thing I can really offer is that I am a very busy person, and that if I say something can’t be discussed publically just yet, there’s probably a good reason for this. The biggest one is because, as amazing as this may sound, I have learned from my many mistakes in the past.
Metal Rogue. The Deep. Caught!. Laura. Those are just four of the major projects I’ve announced publicly and then just kind of… dropped. That’s not even getting into the fact that I still haven’t written an ending to Frangible Time, because I honestly just want to re-write that from scratch. There are a ton of projects that, when I was younger, I would announce, start working on, and then just lose steam with until something else caught my eye. Eventually– and more recently than I would truly like to admit– I figured out that a lot of drama could be spared if I just said “I’m working on something” instead of detailing exactly what. Then again, when I’ve had successes, I’ve mentioned them. This is no different.
Last weekend, I made the decision to go back to eating meat, ending an almost five-year experiment with pescetarianism that, while not permanent, certainly shaped a significant part of my life. More importantly, it got me to re-evaluate certain things and to become more adventurous with my meals, which again came a little bit more recently than I would have cared. I’ve always said that it wasn’t borne out of an ideological thing, out of empathy for animals or latent sympathy with certain whackjobs. My decision to suspend eating meat was just something I wanted to try, to see if it was worth pursuing. For five years, it was. Now it’s not. I suggest that a lot of you try not to read too much into this, as there’s very little to it beyond “I wanted a Double Whopper” and “I learned what I wanted to know”.
There are, of course, more projects that I’m working on. Once I’m done with them, I’ll talk more. Some are small, some are bigger, and one is simply massive in scale– don’t expect too much news on that one for a couple years yet. What I can say is that every once in a while you can hear a few details now and again on my Twitter feed, and if you catch me in person I’ll usually talk your ear off about whatever I’m engaged in at the time.
More to come. There is always more to come.
I’m actually a little surprised that I haven’t had a post tagged for Warhammer 40,000 in over a year. I’ve been tinkering with it here and there during 2011, and I played a handful of matches, but unfortunately I also slacked off greatly on my original plan of being able to play more often. See, I love to play the game. It’s the preparatory work that I really don’t much care for, and by preparatory I mean “painting”.
I am not terribly artistically gifted. I have a general sense for what colors look best together, and in terms of technical ability I can paint my miniatures up to be serviceable, if not gorgeous. I’m not looking to win the Golden Demon here, but at the same time I certainly would like to make it easier for me to see where I am on the board versus just having the bare gray plastic. I have no problem putting in the time, as I find building the models to be a lot of fun. I just realize that I can’t really paint on the level of the other players.
That’s part of it, but not entirely. Games Workshop hasn’t exactly been doing its players any huge favors lately, either, especially by clamping down on the rumor mill for when new products and codexes will be released. I have been waiting for about a year and a half now for the new Tau Empire codex to be announced, let alone released, and the continued and oppressive silence had made wanting to work on my Tau army a chore with no reward in sight– the old codex just doesn’t stack up very well against the more recently-updated threats like the Necrons or any random flavor of Space Marines, which discourages me from wanting to play them. And let’s not even get into how ridiculously overpowered Chaos Space Marines are; at Legions they’re the most commonly encountered army simply because they have any number of ways to rip apart everyone else.
I also still have a couple thousand points of Imperial Guard to paint up, and I’ve been sitting on an equal amount of unassembled Orks, on the theory that “well, once I get done painting the Guard, I can turn my attention back to the Orks.” Don’t get me wrong– I got into 40K primarily so that I could play the game. But there’s a lot more satisfaction for me in playing an army that I’ve fully painted up, even if it’s not perfect. I set forth a rule that I’m not going to buy more than I can paint, and that was at the beginning of 2011. I have bought incredibly little since then and have painted even less.
This past weekend, though, I finished up the last of the Tau (almost– I still haven’t put together drones, mostly because I don’t know how many I want to put together) and made some serious baseline progress on some of my Guardsmen. I’m also dedicating a couple of hours each weekend– likely Saturday morning– solely to painting, in addition to doing some painting when the mood strikes me during the week. I did a little one evening this week, too, just to wrap up what I wanted to do Sunday (when I fell asleep instead), and already I’m feeling more confident and far more motivated than I had before.
The first goal I want to set, really, is to have a 1000-point list for each of my factions painted and ready to play, to help me get over being stuck in a rut playing the same army over and over again. I have plans for that, and am slowly but surely grinding my way through to the next phase of readiness for it even though it’s likely to take a bit longer than I had initially anticipated. Still, this past week has shown that I can make progress on that, and that eventually, the rewards will be worth the trouble, particularly once Sixth Edition comes out later this year. As that release gets closer, I’ll talk more about it.
By the end of the 30 Days project, I was starting to get significantly burned out on interactions on the internet. This may have shown through a little bit as I got, well, testy in certain circles. This wasn’t something that had snuck up on me, either– I had needed to take a day off of being connected for a good long while, but I simply didn’t have the opportunity to. That, fortunately, was fixed this past weekend.
Back in 2007, when I first participated in the worldwide Shutdown Day project, there was a lot of interest in how I managed it, and to tell you the truth the only thing I really remember about it was that I spent a lot of time reading manga. In the years since then, the worldwide project lost steam and eventually wasn’t ever really repeated. However, I really liked the idea behind it and decided to keep it in the back of my mind for future days when I’d be stressed.
Of course, that was five years ago, and I didn’t repeat the project until just this past weekend, long after the point when I could be considered “overdue” for it. The other problem was that in that time I had somehow “flanderized” the concept into being a day where I don’t use any advanced technology at all. If I had taken a look at the post I wrote for the 2007 day prior to starting this one, I would have seen that television and radio were okay, and I wouldn’t have felt nearly as bad about spending most of my time doing those things.
Still, unplugging from the net was a good thing to do. We live in an age of constant communications, and because of that we can sometimes conflate the importance of a message with its immediacy. An e-mail or a tweet or a facebook tag can sometimes be made to feel more important and less deferrable than a letter, or a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting. It’s also worth noting that once in a while, it helps to remind yourself of just how much you really rely on the global information hive-mind; to remember information for yourself, as opposed to having to Google it constantly. Granted, knowing that someone out there knows it and can share it is certainly a good thing, but there are some things you need to remember, too.
Anyway, I enjoyed the experiment and the outcome of it– I got a bit more done than just sitting and watching television, though that certainly was part of it. I also found that, absent the constant pressure to stay on top of certain things during the weekend, I have a bit more free time than I originally thought, and I’m probably going to put that to better use in terms of some ongoing projects that had fallen by the wayside over the last few months. I’ll get into that more in the coming days and weeks.
Just so you’re all aware, the notes on my personal Shutdown Days experience will be up on Thursday.
So, the 30 Days of Content. I have to admit that it went in a radically different direction than I had initially anticipated for it, and that while I got almost comedically overwrought at times, I still stand by everything that I posted. A lot changed by the time some of it went up. My attitudes towards volunteering my time and effort regardless of how it was received, for example, have taken a rather dramatic turn in the last couple of days– mostly due to some introspection that the process of writing it all out caused me to undertake.
That, if anything, is probably one of the most interesting things I can note about why I write stuff like the last month’s work. I spent a lot of non-writing time going over older blog posts; some of them from the older versions of this site, some from even older online journals, and some still from text files that never saw the light of day anywhere but my own monitors. Because of all of that, I looked back and saw a definite progression and maturation in my style over the last fifteen years– yes, I really did go over fifteen years of writing content and a handful of files from even before then. But it wasn’t just a development of style. It was a development of myself.
It is tremendously easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment when you are younger. Things get said that are rash or impulsive. The problem for me, of course, is that I found myself writing them out because I was too shy to even say them aloud. Of course, this meant that a lot of the things I regret are etched permanently into the fabric of time, by my own hand. I have only myself to blame for all of the phenomenally stupid things I’ve written in the past.
But the thing is, as I progressed further and further through the archives, moving closer to the present, I realized that I was letting go of a lot of the ire and venom that characterized some of my worst ranting. And I’m using that word– ranting– here in its traditional, “sound and fury signifying nothing” sense, and not as the internet colloquialism for “op-ed piece” that it’s become. Sure, I still burned hot every now and then, and at the time I probably had a damn good reason to go off as I did. I still do tend to get somewhat vituperative at times. But they’re less frequent now, and less emphatic. Or, at least, they should be.
Part of the process of maturation is knowing when you’re in the wrong, and being able to accept it gracefully. A good friend of mine recently sent me an e-mail which helped take a lot of the sting out of a recent failure of one of my projects. In it, he wrote: “It takes a big person to recognize their shortcomings in any area. I respect that.” That’s something that I’ve been trying to learn for a good long while, and it was only with this mini-disaster that I feel I was able to handle the situation with any amount of maturity and grace that would have been expected of anyone else.
But the other part of maturity is being able to let go of a situation when you know it’s wrong, but simply can’t fix it. As much as I like to believe in the power of every individual being capable of changing the world– and I still think that’s absolutely true– not everyone can fix any problem. There is a reason why people talk about “the right person for the job”. Sometimes, we’re just not in a position to fix the problems that we see or are suffering under. In that case, certainly raise awareness of the problem, but focus your efforts on what you can fix. Maturity means choosing your battles.
During Essay Week 2010, I wrote about what it means to be a “responsible consumer”, citing energy drinks as an example of one way I was “sticking it to the man”. In the end, I had this to say: “It’s okay to lapse once in a while out of necessity. Sometimes, even, you shouldn’t think too hard about what you’re buying. It can be easy to focus on one particular negative aspect of a purchase.” Having convictions and a strict code of honor is an admirable thing, but when it becomes restrictive and stifling, it’s time to re-evaluate the code and possibly make revisions. We cannot make rules that fail to change as we change.
The funniest part about looking back at it now, though, is that since then I have taken exactly the opposite tactic that I advocated in a great many things.
I had occasion to re-watch an early episode of The West Wing a few days ago; in it, Josh Lyman (played brilliantly by Bradley Whitford) said to a freshman Congressman, “President Bartlet [...] doesn’t hold grudges. That’s what he pays me for.” When I first saw the episode, I was ecstatic– it was a powerful line and really established Josh’s character as a stalwart and a man of unbreakable conviction. As time went on, however, and I (and the viewers) realized just how damaged this policy actually made Josh, it took on a new light. When he said it the other night, I couldn’t help but think that it still established Josh well, but not nearly as admirably as it once did.
Who are we paying to hold our grudges for us? Is it really worth the cost anymore?