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Sunday, September 23, 2007

School mugg

I haven't had a school picture taking in a very long time. Actually, that's a lie. I had one taken last year, but they didn't offer a comp package of pix I could actually see and I didn't buy the yearbook (might still get a left over one though). Oh, I'm still lying, I had to get a new picture for my ID at UVM this summer. Man, I'm just full of lies aren't I? Well, the point is that I have an actual useful picture of myself that is up to date... and frankly, I think shows the weight loss I've accomplished in the last 5 months.
The scanner did a crap job, so I had to correct it like mad, and sadly, they didn't do any other "corrections", ahem, so I did them too. Not a bad picture. I haven't compared it to my previous pictures, but my face is definitely thinner. Yay! Now I'm waiting for my new school ID with this picture. Who knows when. This package came pretty quickly. The wife's school hasn't even done picture day yet.
I'm relatively sure I'm violating some copyright issues by scanning and posting this picture, but I don't care. I didn't ASK for the package, it was offered. I didn't sign anything, I figure, it's me, I own me, so if someone captures me on film, I reserve the right of reuse of those images. I somehow doubt they'll come after me though. They seemed cooler than the previous photojocks that did the school picture service... who didn't offer teachers squat - not even the option to buy a set of pictures. Sheesh.

Indigestible maze

Last night, even though I still have a cold and the wife still have lingering symptoms, we went to the Great Vermont Corn Maze. We go at night because it's just more fun being lost in the dark. ;)
We;ve gone for the last few year, I think 4 of them counting this year. The sign at it even says to expect it to take at least an hour and a half. Rob and Nicole took about that long, but they always finish quicker than we do. However, it took us about two hours, and we asked for more help than I am personally comfortable with asking for (from the employees). However, I feel like the maze was much too complicated this year, or worse yet... too many loops. Way too many loops! It's still a lot of fun. Errr... actually, after about an hour I realized I was becoming dehydrated and a little light-headed, so I was getting as little nervous about that. We were caught in a couple spots where I wondered how long it would be for someone to find me if I just fell. Hehe... exciting!

This is the Google Maps location for it. The detail is lame, obviously... but that bigger patch field is where (I believe) the maze actually is.

View Larger Map

I do try to get the post card for it each year so I can actually see the maze from above. We can sometimes figure out some of the places we got lost (or just highly annoyed). So, for your enjoyment, I'm posting the postcard for this year. It might be a spoiler, but I think they aren't doing any more night mazes with this one (only day time??), so you've been warned, try to blur your eyes if you plan on heading to Danville Vermont for this year's maze. And if you want to see some more detail, click through.

The downside... we might not go back. $9 per adult!! Yes, $9. Cheaper than a movie, it turns out, but frankly, we're a little baffled by how they chose to raise the price so high recently. They've got to be making a killing on it. I bet a lot of the workers are family volunteers (or getting some bonding time) for the few evenings they do it, but that's what "farming life is about" isn't it? Anyway, like everyone else who have a local yokel niche, they always feel justified in upping the cost to locals in the name of "spend your money locally", and we eat it up. For $7.50 a person we can go to the drivein for 2 current run movies bringing our own food. Oh well, I'm sure next year we'll go anyway, and they are relying on that. It is seriously good frustrating fun and they do a great job. Just keep us financially struggling folk in mind.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Big Bright Ball, Bantam Bright Bike

So the last few days I've made a point of riding the motorcycle to work. The mornings are colder (and getting colder) but the afternoons are too nice to pass up the opportunity to take two wheels for the commute home.

First the ugly. About half way into the ride, I'm cold. I can't afford (or am wary of spending the money right now) gloves that are better insulated (and waterproof), so I wear some leather winter gloves, which are good until a certain point - usually about 25-30 miles into the commute. Also around 30 miles into the commute I hit pea soup. The news says it straight up: "Visibility of 10 (I'm assuming miles) in Burlington, visibility of 0 in Montpelier", which means visibility of 0 in Barre, since it is basically a soup bowl. This, of course, scares the wife, so I don't bother telling any more when I'm kissing her goodbye for the day that the weatherman has declared that I shan't be capable of seeing anything. Hahaha. Ahem!

The truth is, I can see enough, but obviously the concern is about them seeing me. You know, them are the morons who even though the conditions are sketchy, they are still chatting (or texting) on their phones while driving, or worse, just really too stupid to be on the road at all... they types that I run into (not literally) at least once every other day that nearly pull over into me as I'm passing or cut me off short after they pass me. They are a concern, but I'm aware and constantly vigilant.

That leads to the title of the entry.
Big bright ball is the sun. Traveling south from Burlington to around Richmond the sun has been huge and glaring down on me. Yesterday and the day before the sun was nearly blinding, so I was looking mostly down at the road. Today, however, the sun was even larger, but something in the sky (pollution?) made it less powerful and it looked awesome. I could watch it and at a few times, as usual, I wished I had a head mounted camera for taking some killer pix. Oh well, another project to work on when I finish learning electronics... yes, too many things.

Bantam bright bike refers to my bike (bantam as an adjective, though it's not really diminutive -unless you compare it to the sun :) ) and its new bright orange paint job. So as I peak some of the I89 hills, I should be like the sun. Nice. The chuckelheads wouldn't accidentally cut of the sun would they? I'm the brightest thing on the road, man! Seriously, I see mostly stock like colored bikes in the morning, Suzuki blues, HD and other cruisers in typical black and some Honda reds, but nothing nearly as bright as my orange. No excuses.

So, after school I'll head back home and be just another thing in the nice bright sun of the afternoon, but that sun will make the sparklies in the paint job twinkle - I like that. Though the bike really needs to be washed and waxed again.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Strings of Ineptitude

I had my first violin lesson today in two weeks. Since the last lesson I have just not had time to put in proper practice... and frankly, it shows. I'm embarrassed when I struggle on some of the things I do when I'm working with Julia. I'm only a few months into this, but still I feel like I should be better than I am, and I'm positive my wall is my lack of regular daily practice. I don't know how adults do this. I've found that I have a choice when I get home from work... I can workout or I can practice violin. The working out is important because it's working. My weight is getting back under control and I'm feeling like I will get to my goal. But I chose to learn violin because I want to be good at it. I love the violin. When I am playing well (it does happen from time to time) I'm happy and excited and everything looks positive, so it's not like I'm torturing myself.

Sadly, so often I get home too tired for either. I still try to get the run in though because trying to learn violin when I want to sleep is bad, running...well, I lose all choice in the matter when I'm pounding the pavement for an hour or so.

I leave my lesson sometimes just hoping that she doesn't feel like I'm wasting her time. Sure, I'm paying for it, but still. I don't even know where I should be skill-wise by now. Perhaps I'm over criticizing myself, or perhaps I truly am just too lazy to get my ass to the level of ability I should be at. They say, all over the place, to not expect to actually be good for at least a couple year. I just can't let myself believe there's any one thing that takes two years to just be competent at. I tend top pick thing up quickly... though I also tend to pick up too many things quickly.

She did recommend a couple sheet music books to get that have more familiar and interesting pieces to play. We'll see. Right now it might be a little more money that I should spend, but I'll look up the prices. She also loaned me a book. Maybe I'll scan some pages so I can get it back to her right away.

The good news is that even though I have some serious struggles, I am still ever so happy I've taken up this challenge.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Children of Hurin

I finally finished reading Children of Hurin this evening. Wow. If you're a Tolkien fan, I would have to say you can't pass this one up. I read the Silmarillian a while ago, but don't recall this story specifically. This book, released back in May or so (I ordered it relatively soon after release) is a more complete telling of the tale of the tragic life of mostly Turin, son of Hurin, a lord of Dor-lomin, tucked in the north-west of the land of Beleriand, which is west of the Grey Havens (where the Elves of the fourth age travel to leave the land of Middle-Earth of The Lord of the Rings tale***). Anyway, the story. Hurin is captured by Morgoth and tale is that he's kept alive, but that his kin will be forever cursed. Oh boy, he's not kidding. One of my "labels" for this blog is "Murphy's Law" because that's a great label for much of my life... stuff just always goes wrong. Enter Turin and I have found kin of the misfortuned like rarely before. That said, you might find yourself wondering if you love Turin or hate Turin. I did. I felt it all. The book follows him from childhood, being hidden from his homeland in the hidden city of Elves (in case you didn't know, the Elves aren't particularly loving toward men) into adulthood and being a leader in all ways. Turin is a brat, a hero, a whiner, a leader, a master, an ill-omen - he covers the full range of why Elfkind doesn't trust mankind.

A serious tragic twist happens later that even caused me to drop my jaw (though I wasn't really shocked, half expecting it about half a chapter or more earlier) and say "holy crap". There were a few parts of this story that made me smile, but mostly it was sad and left me feeling loss. I loved it.

I would say it's a relatively short book, but since I'm a slow reader, it was long enough. I bet an average reader could finish this in a few sittings. It was written in a way that was easier to read than Silmarillion, but was still written much like JRRT's other books, with strange linguistic wording and descriptions, but that's part of what I've always liked about reading Tolkien. It does make me want to pull out Silmarillion again and do a re-read, but I still have The Lord of the Rings sitting with a bookmark waiting for another re-read, along with other books. We'll see about that. For now, it's just another thing to invigorate my want to get back to playing Lord of the Rings Online (I have a lifetime subscription to the game, so referral payoffs don't benefit me, but you could contact me if you know me and if you hook up through my referral, their site says you can get in on the same founder pricing options I had, $199 lifetime or $9.99/month).

***Update: 9/6/7: Um, yeah, I felt a little uncertain and stupid when I posted some info above (the ***). I was uncertain about the compared location of Beleriand versus "Middle-earth" as we know them from tLotR. So, being the slight perfectionist I am, and not wanting to look stupid, I did some research. See, I've read the Silmarillion, but it's been a while, and apparently many people are confused about this, so on The Encyclopedia of Arda site, specifically Where in Middle-earth was Beleriand? they have the answer... though you still need to sorta figure more out. I actually had to pull out my Silmarillion book (1st American Edition/printing) with its large map in the back to compare thing. The end result, Beleriand was mostly destroyed, or more it's west coast in "The War"... thanks Morgoth. So an eastern mountain border of Beleriand is now the western most mountain range in Middle-earth (Ered Luin), but the Third Age. I'd need to refresh my memory (or ask a Tolkien expert friend of mine) where exactly the Elves (and Bilbo, Gandalf and Frodo end going) leave for specifically when they leave the Grey Havens. This is why these books warrant re-reads. So much information. I love it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Monster play

It's hard to find time to play, but I'm still loving playing Lord of the Rings Online. I sneak in a few hours here and there. Long weekends (like this - Labor Day Weekend) make it a little easier, I just play on Saturday night. Tonight (actually, that would have been a couple hours ago to be Saturday) I played for a little bit. When I logged in I saw the option to play in Monster Play mode. I knew I'd be able to eventually, but last time I played that option was not selectable. I don't know too much about it, but I knew it'd be cool to try out, so I selected it.

You have the choice between 4 monsters or so... maybe it was 5. Thee appears to be two Uruk-hai options, a leader and an archer, a spider, and a couple others... I forgot already. I selected an Uruk-hai archer dude, see picture to the right. His name is Akulnakh. I gave him a surname, but
off hand I can't remember it. Whoopee really, it doesn't matter. Unlike player characters, you don't get to customize the monsters. No biggie. The truth is, I was not too impressed with that monster play. It seemed like I had to travel far too much to accomplish quests, but I
also didn't select a bunch off hand. This picture was taken before I had received around a total of 10 quests. I only finished two of them, and not even finished. I started them, I guess you could say.

After playing for about an hour with him, I logged out and went back in as Torbrand, my hobbit burglar. He's the main character I play with, and since he's only up to level 14 by now, it shows how little I actually play. The good news is that as long as this game stays alive, I'm likely good for a very long time - and my lifetime subscription will indeed be worthwhile. Anyway, I wasn't interested in playing him tonight, I primarily wanted to log him in to get a couple pix. Both are taken in Budgeford, where I last time I ended play after my first two fellowship quests. I'm more in this game to play alone... that's my style, but it just so happened by great luck that two different people were searching for fellowships for the exact quests I wanted to complete. It worked out just great... hey, perhaps I should have taken a group picture, hehehehe. Anyway, the first pic is of Torbrand (in the beta I called him Brand - like my Halfling Rogue in D&D - but someone beat me to the punch to get the name in the final release) flexing in front of some random hobbit habitat. The second is pulled back a bit... he's waving hellow to you. I tried to get him to yawn, but it didn't work for some reason... the yawn would match how tired I am right now - as soon as I'm done writing this entry, I'm going to bed.

If you happen to be a LotRO player, in the first server on the list (see, I don't pay a lot of attention, I think it starts with E... it is one of the original servers, left over from closed beta), post your PC name... perhaps we'll meet in Middle Earth.

Better yet, donate some money to me so I can buy a kick ass gaming card. I'm playing this on my laptop. It plays just fine, but I can't turn up the visual efx and features like I'd like. I'm sure I'm missing a ton of details and beauty in this. The visuals of this game are just stunning, and I only hope I get a system that has the beef enough to power it all. Eh, I'll include one more picture... it's just a farm picture with a nice sky and rainbow in the background. The weather system is cool... I had killer rain one day, but there seems to be more rainbows than IRL. ;) Anyway, my guess is that the details would be better and I bet the trees would even be moving the wind, not to mention more detailed characters and baddies.