So pardon my mess. I have a BUNCH of air elementals to sweep up. They drop a material that we need to make a cool thing that lets your character turn into a dragon.
Looks like some of my friends who were burnt out on WoW are thinking about playing again. So I'm holystoning the Guild bank and getting ready. It's been a while before I took it seriously. It will be nice to have a direction again. I don't mind holding down the fort, but with the way the content and raids work in the current expansion, I need some party members to get this to work right.
So pardon my mess. I have a BUNCH of air elementals to sweep up. They drop a material that we need to make a cool thing that lets your character turn into a dragon.
When the gang is all going on about the latest blast-aliens-to-green-goo, sometimes I don't pay as much attention as I might. I'm thinking about dropping shapes and making them disappear. Or that little librarian who needs my extensive vocabulary and word search mojo to keep the library from burning down. I know it sounds silly, but casual gaming can feel like a secret addiction. Especially when you get out on the mainstream gaming sites and message boards.
Don't get me wrong. I love a good AAA title with the best of them. I love to dig right in and get my hands dirty. But there are some days when all I'm up for is a quick something to do while cooking dinner and I don't want to haul something out I have to really think about. And that's where these games have snuck into my life.
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp is my current go-to. I played Pokemon a lot for a while there, but I live out in a Poke-desert and since I work from home I don't get out there as much as it takes to really keep up. It got frustrating. Pocket Camp is a little simple for my usual tastes, but it doesn't care where you are in real life so it works in better. It's so calming, it's perfect for playing as I'm trying to fall asleep.
I don't feel so embarrassed as I used to. The world has shifted enough that almost everyone around me has something going on their phone like that. And I don't hang around with the crowd that would look down on it anymore.
So tonight I'm probably going to hit level 58, and hopefully get to start building the giant robot statue that Static requests. ;)
Well, we've been at it a week and it's really turned out to be a good thing!
I got Aila and one of my daughters to join a party so we could all work together on some things, and it's going really well. We've taken down two party quests -- the Basi-list and a horde of Feral Dust Bunnies. I'm still fine-tuning my task lists and tweaking the penalties/rewards, but it's been kind of fun to look at my life from this perspective.
More importantly, I've been much better about keeping some things straight in my life. It does seem to motivate me well, and having real people in my life playing along helps keep me accountable.
So I'll keep at it. Right now we're after Lunar Shards. Hopefully they'll explain what we should do with them here at some point.
I was trying to find something on my hard drive and I ran into this little bit of pernicious biography:
We had chickens when I was growing up. We had two flocks - one for meat and
one for eggs. The meat ones came and went in a couple months. They were a
mass of white feathers and hard work that was all destined for the freezer
and that was about it. Our egg-layers were a different story.
There were a dozen half-Araucana/half some sort of Bantam hens, and one
rooster. Araucanas are known for giving colored eggs, and also for their
incredible variety and color of plumage. With the Bantam, they were quite a
bit smaller than the average chicken which was nice for keeping them over
the winter. In Alaska you can't just have them in a coop during the
winter - you have to have an actual heated house for them. They didn't take
up nearly so much room.
The rooster was particularly Bantam, and particularly beautiful. He was
smaller than all of his ladies. He looked like an illustration out of a
book but done in Napoleon's proportions. He had a fine bush of iridescent
black tail feathers that were much sought after by the neighborhood's fly
fishermen. And like Napoleon, he had a major size complex. You did not
mess with him. He was six feet tall and bullet-proof, and he had the
armament to prove it. Even though the rest of him was small, his spurs were
about an inch and a half long and he had no qualms about testing their
sharpness on you.
I don't remember why I wrote it (the file was dated 2006). I think there was a half an idea about writing up a thing about living subsistence when I was growing up. At any rate, enjoy this bit about chickens.
Yes, I mean you. The foul mouthed heathen who skews the typographical hierarchy of the English language due to the high incidence of usage of the letter "F".
I know you got a sniper round right where the sun don't shine. That doesn't mean you need to discuss the procreative habits of several sorts of small mammals that loudly for the rest of the game. If you don't want my daughter to do that again, next time you're driving the Warthog please remember that "clearance" isn't just for secret agents. Yes it's an ATV but it's still captive to the laws of physics. That way when you drive up the hill you might actually avoid the 4' high boulders strewn about by the game to make that more interesting and not get yourself high-centered like that. Once you do that, you're sniper-bait.
If you decide for whatever reason to do this again, I recommend that you LEAVE THE WARTHOG. You might be able to flip it off the rock. If you sit there with your thumb in your ear like you did this time you're liable to get caught in the crossfire between two Ghosts who are merrily trying to knock each other out of the sky. This is also unhealthy. When you get hit, your discussion about the sexual habits and probable skin color of the pilots is not going to help you respawn any faster.
The Nazi B$&@() Driving the Ghost Who Turned off Voice Chat and Gave You That Negative Feedback
P.S. We're playing in the Recreation Zone. That means we're all supposed to keep it clean and not get quite so up tight about it. If you want heavy competition hit the Professional Zone, you mouthbreathing smacktard. Of course, that would also mean you should have some skills. So either zip your filthy howling screamer or learn to hit the broad side of a barn from the inside. Your choice.
As a part of my periodic attempts to get my ducks arranged at least into a shape that can be expressed as a fractal, I'm exploring what this site can do besides display words and annoy me with it's ideas of how HTML is supposed to work (see tomorrow's possible entry "Responsive design, or Replusive design?").
As a programmer and technical writer, I sometimes find cause to have to speak code in something besides a code editor. This can be a challenge. I have built fancy styles in my word processor, but those do me no good here. While flopping around in the apps list for this service like a stranded fish looking for anything that seemed even remotely useful I found an add-on that's supposed to do that for me.
There it is. You have a few settings to make it readable, and it's supposedly language specific (that's a regular expression using the XQuery setting, in case you were wondering). Without context it seems kind of silly, but in application it's pretty slick. I just cut and pasted that out of an Excel spreadsheet and it figured it all out instead of me changing colors and doing all sorts of formatting chants and dances.
So, Hello World! ;)
A friend and I are trying the Habatica app together. If you've never heard of it, it's a tool that allows you to setup a list of tasks, and then the app makes it into a roleplaying game, where you gain XP and gold from doing the things you've set up for yourself, and lose HP for not doing them. And you can have your friends join too, so you can all work together on your to-do lists and bad-habit-breaking.
We'll see how it goes. I'm EXTREMELY interested in it right now, but we'll see how it goes over the long haul. Heck, this blog post came about because it's one of the things I'm going to be trying to get better about. ;)
You can check it out yourself at http://www.habatica.com
A friend on Facebook asked me about my service dog, and their user interface wouldn't let me put my answer there, so I'm going to put it here and link to it. ;)
A lot depends on what you need the dog for. A mobility support dog, like seeing eye dogs, has a pretty defined path. If you need them for other things, it really depends on what your needs are, and what amount of effort you are able to put in.
There are a lot of factors to consider. This is a complicated thing, and it's great that you're doing your research before you jump in. This is going to get long.
Let me introduce us. My dog is a now eight year old boxer named Cleo. She's a rescue I've had for almost four years. Without her, I would have a hard time safely living, would have a much harder time managing the disease, and would have to be insulin dependent because I couldn't safely take the medications.
I want to start by saying that I absolutely love my dog and everything about her (except maybe the way she hogs the bed at night and farts like a trucker if she gets too much in the way of people food - those things I love a little less). She makes my life better is so many ways. But a lot of this is going to read like a cautionary tale, because this is a large undertaking.
You need to think about them as a dog. You have to care for them while they're caring for you. All the advice given to people generally considering getting a dog is a good place to start. Having a dog itself is a giant responsibility, and it's not cheap. And it's not just money -- it's time and effort too. Think about feeding, walking and exercising, grooming and toilet needs, vet bills. And think about their whole lifetime. Large dogs live 10-15 years on average, and little dogs tend to live longer than that.
You need to figure out what the dog can help you with. That list someone else posted is a good start, but not inclusive. Do some googling with "service animal tasks (name of your issue)" and see what others have done.
Then think about the tasks you need done and the dog together. What kind of dog will fit into your living space and your life? Can a dog that fits your life do the tasks? A 90 pound lab in a studio apartment is hard on you and the dog. But some tasks like opening doors would be difficult or impossible for a little dog.
Let's take these two concepts together. For example, Cleo is a diabetic support dog. She's trained to detect the changes in my body that herald a low blood sugar and alert me by licking and nuzzling the inside of my right arm that she never touches any other time. If I don't follow the alert after 3 tries, she is trained to interrupt what I'm doing until she either sees me eat or sees me take my blood sugar with the machine (specifically, use the lancet). Preferably, eat. She can detect the changes before the machine can. When I say interrupt I mean that if I'm reading, she'll take my book. If I'm playing a game, she'll shut off the Xbox with her nose. If I'm on the computer, she'll keep nudging my hand off the mouse. When we're out, she carries the machine and information about my issues.
Training is a huge topic. There are no hard and fast rules on how to get a dog trained or certified. In my case, I got Cleo just as a regular dog and took her in for re-training due to some issues with her previous owners. Her trainer was the one who realized she could do the tasks and set me up with the resources I needed and helped me train her. You'll need to google around in your area for resources. Assistance Dogs International has a service that can help you find what's in your area.
Time is a big thing. Not just in "how long to train". Are you starting with a puppy? If so, they have to grow up. On top of training, their body (particularly their joints) needs to be fully mature and stable. And even if you're starting with an adult, it takes time to train them. And once they're done with classes, you'll still be working on this with them all the time their whole lives.
Even if you get a dog that's fully trained, you'll need training too, to interact with them while they're helping you and to maintain their training as you live together. You are partners in this and you have to do your part, too. Even if you are an experienced pet dog owner of working breeds, a service dog is a different kettle of fish. I grew up in rural Alaska, and we had sled dogs so I grew up around them my whole life and I still had a lot to learn.
It's not just the task training. They also have to behave like a service dog in public, which is more stringent than the usual obedience training, and can be more difficult than the actual tasks that help you. There are lots of guidelines, but this is a pretty good page of information, or just google "service dog public access standard".
And sometimes it doesn't pan out for a dog. The combination of brains, temperament, and physical ability is far from common. In the case of Cleo, a dog that can be obedient until suddenly they have to not be is extremely difficult. If I'm out of it, I'll tell her to quit it or maybe scold her, but she has to keep at it. So she has to have that right kind of keen nose, be trainable to very complex and abstract tasks, and have the ummmm... assertiveness to carry them out even in the face of my possible opposition.
They aren't perfect. They can misbehave. We tell the story of "The Accidental Chicken" at my house from when she was back in training and she nosed a wrapped chicken in the meat department (I bought it just because I didn't want anyone to feel upset). And there have been a couple times where other dogs have challenged her and she responded and she's not a little dog.
And it's not all perfect freedom. You can try to do things they can't handle. For example, I help out with PAX. Cleo is timid around young men due to things that happened before I got her, particularly if they have a beard or wear a hat. PAX is thousands of them in one place. She's learned to cope with the regular show halls. But the Expo Hall floor with it's noise and everything else is simply beyond her ability to handle. Even "official" mobility dogs with years of training their whole lives have problems with it. So we don't go to the Expo Hall.
And be prepared for a LOT more interaction with people when you go out. I was at the grocery store with my younger daughter once, and after the fourth or fifth person who came up to me to tell me their story about their dog and asking me what she does she said, "God, Mom! It's like you've got a unicorn on a string!" So we call it The Unicorn Effect.
It has great points. The difference in how people treat you is amazing. You get smiles instead of frowns or being ignored. People actively engage you. But it can be a challenge. I'm not exactly a social butterfly on even a good day. I know it's been good for me, but sometimes I just want to get the shopping done and crawl back under my desk, not answer 15 questions about how I got her and how she helps me and fend off several tribes of house-apes.
And be prepared for a few people who raise their nose and sniff as if your unicorn has been leaving little rainbow piles of glittery, suspiciously candy smelling unicorn shit all over. I've been told she can't be a service dog because of her breed, or yelled at. I had a gate attendant try to block me from getting on a connecting flight halfway through a trip because someone else's dog had previously acted up badly and she was soured on the entire thing.
You'll have to learn to answer challenges and educate people on the rules. It's not every day, but it's quite often. I've talked about that airline problem. That was only the worst of the issues we've had. I've had to switch airlines three times now because of their stupid rules and the way we fall through the cracks. We had such a bad experience at a frozen yogurt store once with an uneducated manager I had to get a hold of corporate and give the education materials so they could teach them.
And some people are scared of dogs or are allergic to them. I had a neighbor for a while that has just come here from North Africa, and she'd been attacked by a pack of feral dogs. I feel so badly when I run into that and try to be sensitive.
Claire mentioned traveling, and this is a whole 'nother ballgame. If you get a dog that's a brachycephalic breed, you can have trouble traveling due to airline regulations (boxers, bulldog, shi tzu, pug, etc). They don't do low air pressure well (in worst cases they will die). So the rules about how they fly are kind of dumb. Make sure they're small enough to fit under a seat. Cleo just barely fits. The airlines do the best they can, but twice now we've had to fit her under a center seat between my feet. And Cleo digs the car completely, so even a trip to the grocery store is a great adventure.
At any rate, there's a whole lot more to it than this. And everyone's experience is going to be as different as their own needs and the specific dog. But this is a start.
For Joost's 40th birthday, I wanted to do something special. He's a giant Terry Pratchett nerd, and so something from the Discworld novels was an easy place to start. After planning an over-grandiose idea that there wasn't nearly enough time for (but will hopefully show up Christmas-ish) I settled on making him his very own Ankh-Morpork City Watch badge. It's not the final version. When I get my metalworking area setup I'll replace it with a proper lost wax casting of copper. But overall I'm very happy with how it turned out.
The design was the first complication. The badges are not described consistently through the books. There was a "official" one made, but I can't just copy that. Plus I wasn't over-fond of the way they interpreted the descriptions. But then I had a stroke of luck.
There's a set of postage stamps from the book and one of them featured the head of the City Watch, Sam Vimes. And as a decoration it included a view of his badge. That's just as official as the other, and it was quite a bit more like what I had in mind. So that's what I based my sketches on. It's not a precise copy of the design, mostly because that was for print and not physical media. There's a few nearly Esherian twists in the ornamentation that just wouldn't fly in 3d.
Next was choosing a material. It's supposed to be made of copper, but I've done a lot of finish work for props, and so I know good and well it doesn't have to actually be made of that to look it. My daughter had just done a project using cold porcelain and had some left over. I'd never worked with it before, but I figured what the heck and I sat down to make a prototype.
Getting those curls up around the top edge to look right wasn't easy. This stuff isn't as precise as modelling wax. It takes pretty good details, though.
I let it dry for two days and then it was time to start cleaning up the rough spots. The process was backwards in a way. I didn't want it to end up perfectly smooth. So in the reverse of the usual order, I used a fairly fine grit sandpaper to just take the tooth off any burs, but left the main flaws. Then I got some really coarse steel wool and used that to add some serious character.
There was one challenge with the material. I had some adventures with the various layers sticking together as I handled it. It didn't take me long to get tired of things randomly popping off as I was sanding. So I got out a pick and pried at every piece to see if they came off and glued down anything that shifted using a water-based superglue.
It was almost a shame to paint it. The cold porcelain dried to a beautifully translucent ivory color, like fine bone china. But I got up my courage and started messing it up.
First, I put on a layer of black to make sure the bottoms of all the nooks and crannies were dark. One of my favorite things to use for that is black scuff remover for shoes. It's a leather dye in a water-based carrier. It dries to a matte finish that takes other layers of various paints and things well, and when it's dried it helps the upper layers adhere. It comes in a convenient applicator, and is easy to manage and clean up.
After that, I did three very fine layers of copper spray enamel from three different directions to make sure I got all the nooks and crannies. When it comes to spray paint, the finer the layer, the better the final product is going to look.
Once that was good and dried, I rubbed in some more of the dye to grunge up that shiny finish. Then I topped it off with a layer of clear sealant just to make everything stay put and behave.
Then I added a pin-back and started work on the case.
I had an old clock-case that I'd had sitting around that just needed the right kind of TLC. I mended the leather stitching in some places, put some artistic wear and tear on it in others. There was already a panel inside but the hinges were broken and not in the right place so I replaced them. Then I attached the clay nameplate I'd made the same way I made the badge to the top. That's the fourth picture.
The flap inside the case had a round hole for the old clock, which I rimmed with leather and then filled with a felted panel to stick the badge to.
Here's the whole thing all together.