robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've come up with a good one for this year. It's even traditional, something properly negative and self-limiting, all about Giving Up A Bad Habit.

2015 Resolution: No Self Improvement!
That means no weight loss dieting, no eat-healthier plans, no self-help books or videos, no exercise programmes or gym memberships, no affirmations or positive thinking exercises, no Success Visualizations, no what is that thingy - wishy stuff, the sitting about wishing you had a lot of money thingy. I think it's Law of Attraction or something like that, if you just keep thinking about happy things nothing bad will ever happen and all your bills will get paid before they get to you sort of stuff. At any rate, none of that. No Self Improvement!

I'm sixty years old. If I don't like who I am, who the heck am I looking to please? Not some mass market self improvement industry, that's for sure. They make a fortune pandering to people's social insecurities and setting them up for disappointment. Giving up your various recreational enjoyments in favor of more virtuous ones that don't serve the same needs tends to come out as a net loss. You can diet like crazy but that's just going to teach your body to hoard calories because you're facing intermittent starvation. You can exercise grimly and push that to the point of sports injury without actually getting anything out of it. Lots of people buy gym memberships for a whole year and then quit before February - but not without paying for the whole year in advance. That's what these things are really about.

All this just to get to the point in February of the miserable annual self-flagellation of how you never succeed at any resolutions.

I have every confidence that come February, I'm not going to slip from this and suddenly start ordering self help books instead of pastel painting ones. I expect to spend more on new art supplies than either junk food or health supplements. Daily sketching is a good habit I plan to keep, but that's something to focus on a monthly basis rather than declare for all year - that's always Health and Weather Permitting.

I would like to get at least one of my novels edited and processed and made available online as an ebook this year. Currently thanks to finding the perfect cover artist in Jillian Lambert, (blog is http://jillianlambert.blogspot.com) the one I think I can get done before the end of 2015 is "Elder's Pride" formerly called "Sabertooth." It's the one about a pride of Smilodon fatalis in Los Angeles before any humans got to California, right around when the tar pits were still filling up with lots of animal bones. A cat lover's big cat book, a romp into prehistory with lots of very large felines interacting in a family. Very heartwarming and furry, with extra large teeth and fairly impressive claws. Not your usual mog, these cats ate elephants for a living.

Also on the editing agenda, I plan on continuing the edits to "Chazho" to fix point of view issues and get those first five books in the Piarra series ready to go before releasing any of them. So I really have two major editing projects for 2015 but will not list them as year-goals.

If either is done before 2015 ends, great, happy, wonderful, I lucked on time and effort and getting my life together. If not, I didn't set an artificial deadline to get it done by. I do my best work when I just do it at its own pace in the time and energy I have available. I seize the moment on good days and slob off on bad days but still often think about what I'll be doing once I'm up to it again.

Have been getting the daily sketching thing back in the past few days, you can see some tigers and other sketches posted at http://robs-daily-painting.blogspot.com/ aka Rob's Daily Painting where I will probably do my own version of the sabercats too once I get going on those edits. They are as fun to draw as they are to write about.

Ari purrs and sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration on you! Happy New Year! Quit kicking yourself and go have a good time, the annual "get drunk and don't drive home" holiday is what's up.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
2014 is the start of a 3 year plan for me to become self supporting before my SSI turns into Old Age version of Social Security. If I retire early, I will get a smaller check. Much better to be self supporting and just never retire. That's the long term goal.

In a comment on an artist's blog that I wrote about 4,000 words and deleted all but about 200, I worked out just exactly what it means to "Work toward self supporting in 2014."

I have a slight chance of success at it. My guesstimate at the moment is 10% to 20% that I will actually reach a point where I could draw a salary of a thousand a month and not change my lifestyle. Just quit SSI and take the limit off my personal savings.

What I really need to do in 2014 is work out my schedule and the rhythm of the year. November 2013 was a very bad time. I barely got in 50,000 words. Lots of sick days and two weeks of flu did me in. I will always have Too Many Sick Days. I always have. Net result of disabilities, day job as a cripple schedules itself.

December 2013, I didn't do much at all. I took a freaking vacation after the intensity of the most difficult Nanowrimo that I ever won. I'm serious. It was harder getting 50,000 words of Arts and Aspirations than it was to write 450,000 words of seven fantasy novels in a previous year. But I succeeded in my big goal - it is a better book that will take less editing.

I also signed up for The Sketchbook Project. I paid for it to be digitized and posted online. This is using my art to sell my book. I did it so that I could publicize my steampunk novel. I thought that I'd be self illustrating while writing, would have a lot of time to do 32 decent sketchbook pages with teasers.

Now I've got ten to fifteen days to complete the whole thing, with three pages penciled. Those need to be inked. It's not quite as bad as I thought - I thought I only had one page. But it still means doing more than one artwork a day till it's done. Getting back to a schedule more like when I lived on my art. Managing to work on it on days when I've got home care or medical appointments.

It's going to be possible but difficult like Nanowrimo was. It will only serve its intended purpose if I can do a good job on it. Penciling first is probably a good idea! It might let me lay out many more pages and it's not something I'm doing just to goof around. I paid good money for it as a publicity tool for the book's launch. I'll design the cover last, because I could do the cover very simple if it comes to that. An easy cover would be a portrait of the cat and the title in calligraphy.

So this year is starting off with a bang.

December will always be my vacation. A pro writer I knew a decade ago did that, took December off entirely as vacation because the holidays and her kids took up too much of her time. I don't do that kind of thing. I don't live with my kids and grandkids and when I did, they did most of the work. For me it's just that is the low end of the year when I'm exhausted physically and emotionally. I either get depressed by pain and fatigue or distract myself with holiday cheer and soppy old holiday movies. I did the lazy holiday cheer this year.

It was great!

In fact, it might have been the first real vacation I've had in my life. I don't count the miserable two week trip to San Francisco in the 1980s when I went with my ex, blew a lot of money saved up for it and bought a lot of tourist junk, ate out a lot, stayed in an expensive transient hotel and made myself miserable with homesickness. That trip was a bitter exercise in pressing my nose hungrily against the window of my life. Now I live here.

This time, for once, taking a month off left me feeling excited again about my writing and my art. I want to sketch. I want to play with colors. I want to get back to the book and read about those characters and keep going when I hit the point where I left off. Writing rough draft is a lot like reading the book before it exists. I turn the page and get the next sentence, paragraph, page and enjoy all the twists as surprises.

So why not combine rereading the book to catch up with myself with doing the Sketchbook Project? I'll ink what I have penciled, then start reading the book again. Stop and pencil when I see something that'd make a good picture. Doodle my way through the reread and then turn "Rereading" into "Drafting" when I run out of chapters already written.

Maybe it's not so daunting after all. :D

I want to be able to build up to 40 hours a week at productive work on my career. 2014 is the year of discovering my schedule, what gets done when. What works best which days of the week, which weeks of the month, which months in the year. I need to find just the right level of push between "pushing myself too hard and falling over" and "could actually be doing more if I made the effort to start." That's always tricky in both directions.

If I find out by December 2014 that I can't do 40 hours a week year round, fine. I'll readjust my income expectations to the reality, whether that's 30 hours or 20 hours or 10. It will probably be different in different months and some months I might go over 40 hours a week because some tasks work better by immersion. I mean average 40 hours a week for the next 11 months, not keep to 40 hours a week every week but December. Most of all, know the seasons and my climate. I've had two years here to know when I'm up to going out just for fun, when it's hard just making it to medical appointments, when I'm going to fall down on basic necessities of self care and when I've got time to relax.

So... resolution: CHART what I'm doing in 2014. I need to start logging my hours every day and week, what I do that's productive. I'm not going to count hours spent doing medical appointments or other necessities like supervising home care unless I did something productive during it. I've taken to using the hour of waiting for the van or after arriving early for sketching, which got me sketching even when I wasn't doing anything else. So that hour counts on an appointment day.

Two new treatments in 2014 might also improve my net function. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatment for my PTSD may eliminate flashbacks and symptoms that trigger fibromyalgia flares. That is a nasty combination. Knocking down my PTSD may give me a lot of energy locked up in flashbacks. Once that's done, I'll look for a physical therapist with geriatric and/or pediatric experience.

When I finish that, I'll get a physical therapist for massage therapy, possible hippatherapy and water therapy. The sorts of physical therapy that really do reduce the damage and give me more energy walking out than I had walking in. Chiropracty always does that too. When I'm no longer living on the survival edge, paying out of pocket for treatments that really do help is worth it. I just need to have enough left after necessities to afford those treatments.

So... 2014 is starting the run. I'll start by doing the Sketchbook Project and see what comes of it. Hopefully a finish to Arts and Aspirations.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I love, love, love the Asus! It's so fast it's scary. Its backlit keyboard looks like something off the console of a spaceship, very science-fictionish. One of me moments of wonder, realizing I'm living in the future now. This machine is sleek.

And so powerful. I'e got the new-computer high of watching everything I'm used to run like greased lightning and seeing it do things that always choked no matter what I was on run like they were always supposed to. Youtube videos embedded in Facebook run without slowing anything. Radio Rivendell is playing in background, which is giving me a serious writing jones.

Oh yes, this is going to be a thrill and I may not wait till November. I may finally be integrating writing and art in the same day's habits. I may try for it as such, say hello to both every day at least with some backstory work or edit a few paragraphs and at least a doodle sketch. Well, this month's goal is to draw at least once a week and write seriously at least once a week. That is to say, EDIT, put in some good hours editing Rites of Chavateykar, which needs it badly. It also seriously needs a retro-outline beacuse of the number of new scenes and point of view changes involved.

So that migth be this week's task, outline the thing. I need to get organized and create sub-tasks so I don't get intimidated at the scale of the entire work. Also I really could do another chapter, that wouldn't hurt at all. It's going to be fun!

I'm home. I'm back online where I belong and life is so good again! Today's dinner was perfect too, Swedish meatballs with carrots in one veggie side and organic green beans in the other. I hate green beans. I used to hate green beans. These tasted like they got picked from the yard and then cooked at home, nothing like the yucky canned green beans I loathed in a zillion cafeterias. I'm getting addicted to the Meals that Heal vegetables because they're so good, donated by local organic farmers and cooked by someone who's an incredible chef. Whoever's doing the cooking for this program deserves some awards.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Okay, this is not a complete review because I haven't finished and won the game yet. That's not my style of play. I tend to noodle around each act for a long time playing it through in all the character types slowly. I move across the landscape slowly picking up everything including the junk. This drives other players crazy in multi-player games, but my relaxed pace is what I get into with it.

Diablo III is a masterwork.

There is a reason why it took ten years to write the sequel to Diablo II. I was still playing and enjoying Diablo II up to the minute I first loaded Diablo III and it's still my choice for what to relax with when I go offline due to power outage or loss of Internet connection. The only flaw in Diablo III is that you have to go online to play it.

I had to ignore a tiny chat screen down at the bottom left corner where other players are selling artifacts or trying to invite me to help with quests. I don't play socially, so it'd be nice to filter that to in-game characters only. For one thing, I am an old fashioned RPG player who likes to get into character and stay in character. That does not fit the mood of the chats.

However, if I wanted to play with friends who game the way I do, it's easy to set up an invite based social game provided everyone has good high speed access. I have Verizon Wireless 4G - it runs very well when the 4G service is up, when they switch to the 3G servers or get a bit overloaded there's lag. This can get frustrating but my access is good enough it hasn't happened much. Be sure you have good fast Internet service and enough bandwidth to play it for hours on end.

It won't cost as much bandwidth as streaming video but it's probably more than just reading articles and posting. I haven't been able to check those stats yet. Verizon's usage analysis service hasn't been working when I logged in. On the side where it's closer to "read and surf" usage though, I've been online with it for 48 hours and have not gotten the "Important Message from Verizon" yet telling me I used half my usage. Since I did watch a six hour painting class in streaming video, if it was running high I'd have got that message already.

There is a reason this game is a massive enduring hit in all three iterations. Three good reasons.

1) Good game design: the pace your character levels and gets new powers, the balance of effort and reward is optimum. It's perfectly balanced for endless play. There's enough new challenges, different side quests and dialogue to make it immersive for every repeat. They did this as far back as Diablo I, so at every stage they've kept this flagship game's playability and replayability maximized.

2) Good Story with an Immersive Setting, Sympathetic Characters, Good Dialogue and Masterful Twists. It's got all the literary hallmarks of a brilliant graphic novel series. If you have not played Diablo I and Diablo II, the story will stand alone and enough gets revealed about what happened to keep this one absorbing. It's richer if you have played the sequels, so I'd recommend buying the Diablo II Battle Chest that includes Diablo I as a free extra.

The first game is a bit crude because game technology has evolved since then, but it's still fun in its own way. The second is still playable to this day and will probably sit in my library something like the books I keep replacing till I get fed up and get the hardcover version. The third is just as good.

I'm only part of the way through it as I said, but the quality is so consistent I know it'll be maintained right through to a twist ending.

3) Incredible fine art. For the past few years I've been taking a lot of upper level art classes, since December 2010 I've been taking a master level landscape course given by Johannes Vloothuis, who was once named Mexico's best watercolor artist. So I understand a lot more of the underpinnings of great art than I did before when I just got absorbed in it and loved the art. Everyone loves the art.

Now I understand why the art grabs everyone that much. It's just that good on every principle of design and color and composition. You can use all the CGI and fancy tricks in the world to create illusion but if it has poor design it will be awkward, look unreal and drive you nuts without being able to put your finger on why.

The scenes are lighter and easier to navigate than Diablo II. Mist is used a lot to give distance and keep the screen a little lighter. Rather than hard-edged detailed realism, the scenery has a painterly loose depth to it that's completely immersive. Every artist's trick I just learned to make a flat piece of paper open up into an immense vista is applied all at once. Character design is good too. Styles are classic for the archetypes the characters represent.

I'm of two minds about the Witch Doctor though. He's cool, he's very African themed, he's clearly a jungle shaman. What I don't like is that his combat pose, crouched to fire poison darts in the jungle, makes the male Witch Doctor look like he's cringing and servile in any conversation. The other heroes stand tall and act with a balance of wisdom and youthful male arrogance. Witch Doctor has that too but his wisdom is a little different, he's had a harder life. I'd like to have seen them give him better posture and save the crouching for a combat pose, or even eliminate the crouch because it's just not there if you're shooting behind a tall bush. It's only there if the bush you use for cover is shorter than you are.

On the up side, all the white characters in the game treat him exactly like the other heroes. There's no sense of racism in their reactions and no one notices his bad posture or acts patronizing toward him. I'd just like to see him move and act more hunky because when I imagine myself as a black guy hero, I want to look like Wil Smith and really take charge of the combat. Maybe darker than Wil Smith and tribal dressed, yay and cool for that, but I keep feeling he should've had good posture and excellent dreadlocks. His dialogue and attitude are perfect for exactly what he is - a shaman, he's used to giving people advice, he's humble with the spirits and respectful of the spirit world but ferocious when it comes to evil spirits.

There's a reason the series endures and that we all had to wait so long for the third volume in the trilogy. Diablo III is the third in a series of classic interactive graphic novels. If you enjoy graphic novels you'll enjoy this game, even if you're not usually into computer games.

Oh, that's the other thing.

4) The mechanics are still brute easy. I don't have to memorize a lot of keyboard commands or get a game controller and train my hands to its buttons and commands. The learning curve to play the game at full speed is stupid easy. This is important. Ease of play gets you into the real pleasure of gaming a lot faster without the distraction of having to learn a lot of real-world skills at a real-world pace.

Playing well does not demand the fast reflexes of a physically healthy 12 year old either. My snail's pace is partly determined by my physiology. I don't react fast. I don't move quickly enough for half the games out there because I didn't train them into automatic reflexes. The dabbler gamer can get as much enjoyment out of Diablo III as the experienced gamer with a whole big bookshelf of colorful fantasy roleplaying games.

It's best of breed. It was worth the wait. There's even a convenience benefit to the new "must play online" system - the install CD is only one install CD instead of the five in the Diablo II Battle Chest, four of which needed to be loaded and swapped repeatedly to install before you get into just using the Expansion Play Disc. That's great now and it'll be great when I upgrade my laptop next year too.

I wasn't sure if it'd run on my current best laptop, an HP with 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core AMD processor. Sorry, don't have the specs at hand, but look close at the system requirements. Mine had enough RAM and processing speed and space on the hard drive, but I got a warning it might not play well on my video card - and this is a three year old "gaming machine desktop replacement" laptop with a 17" wide-screen monitor. Turns out speed of play depends a bit more on how smooth and fast your Internet access is, but don't spend the $60 if you don't meet the tech specs. Or get a friend to give you a free pass client to try it so you can find out if your system runs it.

I set it to the lowest resolution on this machine just to conserve bandwidth, but I'll turn it up to high once I get cable Internet and a newer laptop. I might follow up then just to see the art at its finest intensity. The box includes four free guest pass codes so you can let friends or family members enjoy the game, plus one free guest pass for World of Warcraft.

I've heard good things about that too and may give it a try. Blizzard games are definitely my flavor.

5) Did I mention the sound track is as good as the best movie soundtracks I've ever enjoyed? This is awesome. Sometimes I listen to the music just for writing music.

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