Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting My Geek On!

If you ever want to get to know yourself… I mean really, really get to know yourself… join a role playing game (RPG). Not only will you see yourself, you will see, quite clearly how others perceive you!

Recently a small group of friends decided to start a D&D game and, having wanted to try this for ages, I was thrilled to be included. I’ve never played D&D before. I had no idea what was truly involved or how the game actually worked. But I wanted to learn, so I dove in feet first and created a character.

My character’s name is Anayah. She is a Wizard of the human race, 5”9” tall, has black hair, a pale complexion, green eyes and tips the scale at 130 lb. Anayah is 27 years old, but her backstory is shrouded in mystery. Even she does not know where she came from or who her parents are. She was raised in an orphanage from which she ran away when she was 13 to seek apprenticeship under the great Wizard Odynyn.

She is tough and disciplined and curious. Thus she chooses to be an eclectic Wizard, studying all aspects of magic, rather than specializing in any specific discipline. Though young, Anayah possesses a strong sense of wisdom and approaches life with a passion for learning and a heightened desire to understand and know her environment. She is not overly sympathetic, but she is empathetic. She is keenly analytical and observant. (At least she thinks she is! The DM has great power over things.)

After completing her apprenticeship at the age of 21, Anayah built a home for herself on the edge of a great forest. There she continues her studies in the pursuit of perfection. She draws water from a nearby creek; she’s adept with a small crossbow and she values her solitude as much as she values life – all life – itself. She understands her Oneness with everything.

One morning, as Anayah is getting ready to prepare her daily spells, a deer bounds out of the forest and knocks her over. Slightly confused and mildly annoyed, she watches the deer disappear back into the forest on the other side and turns her attention back to her spell work. But more animals run out of the forest and past her worktable and disappear back into the woods. Intrigued, but determined to complete her morning work, she tries to ignore them until they charge into her work table, scattering her equipment and supplies, leaving a huge mess. Rather more annoyed, she decides to follow the animals to try to discover what’s gotten into them.

She is led to a grove at the edge of a river where she sees all the animals gathered in a circle around a strange beam of bright light shooting up into the sky from the center of the clearing. Looking up, she notices a strange black cloud high above the earth. Suddenly the bright light turns black and the animals flee back into the forest. There are three other Beings in the grove: a Half-elf Druid, a Halfling Druid and a Human Monk. Anayah yells at them to take cover. The Half-elf attempts to climb a tree, but stumbles and hits her head on the trunk, dazing herself in the process.

Anayah sees a group of people from the nearby village of Clyde behind the Monk. They ask the villagers if they know what is going on. Garret, the obvious leader, says that he does not, but that there is someone in the village who might. The Wizard, the Monk and the two Druids decide to follow the villagers back to Clyde.

As they near Clyde, they notice a red glow on the horizon. The villagers, alarmed, rush ahead to discover that their homes are on fire – the whole village is ablaze. The Druids dash ahead with the villagers and begin a bucket chain to help put out the fires. Anayah and the Monk hang back to make sure that there is no other danger lurking before the Monk joins the bucket chain. Anayah assesses the situation and, seeing that the fires are being dealt with, begins to look for Garret to ask him where she can find the man who might know what is going on. Garret refuses to tell her; he’s too occupied with trying to save the village. Anayah looks around to see if she might recognize this mysterious person, but fails to do so. In her mind, the village can be rebuilt, but there is no point in rebuilding it if it’s only going to be destroyed again. She needs to know what happened and why.

When the fires are finally doused, Anayah apologizes to Garret, who reluctantly accepts and tells her that the man she is looking for is a hunter named Paul who lives about a day’s walk away on a grassy knoll on the other side of the forest. Annoyed by this odd twist, Anayah doesn’t pursue it, fearing that she will alienate Garret again. Garret reports that the gathering hall has survived the fire, but the town’s Creed has been stolen. He also mentions that the trees in the forest surrounding an old ruin have shifted, forming a maze.

We're probably starting where most groups end.

Anayah, the Monk and the Druids decide to go in search of the Hunter, Paul and, after purchasing some supplies from the villagers, set off wondering if the book, the cloud and the maze are connected somehow. Along the way, the Half-elf trips on a fallen log and badly sprains her ankle. The Halfling tears strips from his bed roll and makes a splint that enables the clumsy elf to continue to walk. A short while later, they hear voices coming from behind a rock.

“Stop! Where are you going?”

“Shhhh. Not so loud.”

Looking around, the small group of companions cannot see anyone, but they follow the Monk’s keen sense of direction to the rocks where they discover a huge, hairy man, Paul, the Hunter. And he’s talking to himself.

They question him about the forest and the animals and through his somewhat confusing answers learn only that something sinister is going on. “The animals no longer talk right,” he says.

It’s getting late in the day and Paul announces that he is hungry. He holds up a large rabbit that he has trapped and invites the group back to his cabin to eat and rest. They agree, hoping to get more information from him.

At the cabin, that appears much larger inside than it does outside, Paul prepares the rabbit for the cook fire and tells them that a few weeks earlier a black cloud appeared over some ruins and right after that all the trees surrounding the ruins moved to form a maze. “Anyone that’s gone into the maze,” he says, “hasn’t come out.”

Paul knows another way in, though, through a tunnel at the base of the knoll that will lead them to the ruins. He flatly refuses to guide them, though. “I will not go near that place.”

He does agree to show them to the entrance of the tunnel, but not until morning. The group decides that they will rest for the night in the Hunter’s smelly cabin. In the morning they will prepare to enter the tunnel by getting spells ready and gathering extra food, for the way through the tunnel will take them several days to pass.

This is how our D&D adventure begins. I don’t know what will happen next, but I’m very eager and excited to find out. Our Dungeon Master informs us that there will be combat! But what will we encounter? How will we fair? Will the mystery of the black cloud be solved?

(Cue creepy cliff-hanger music…)

At the end of the evening, the player playing the Half-elf informs me that Anayah was really mean to Garret. I admit I was somewhat taken aback. Was she… I… she? Later, my meditations would focus on this (those) very question.

Where do I end and where does Anayah begin? Are we the same? Or are we different? Would I have done the same thing in Anayah’s place?

The answers are (respectively): The lines are blurred; Yes and no; Ditto; and Very likely I would have pitched water on the fires, but resented having to do it because I would have felt guilty about not helping though I’d rather be interviewing the guy that Garret said knew what was going on to find out who did this and why so I could analyze the information and try to understand it so that maybe I could find a way to stop it from happening again.

And there’s the rub. All these internal workings are not obvious to the casual observer and all they see is Anayah didn’t help put out the fires. The bitch!

D&D philosophy rocks!

I’ve been the victim (so to speak) of such internal workings in real life numerous times. It’s nothing new and I’m no longer surprised to discover that people find me cold, intimidating, even rude at times when, in fact, I’m simply cutting – or trying to – cut to the chase. Honesty isn’t always well received. This tendency has transferred to Anayah, who is now mirroring it back to me and I am the witness of my own creation. It’s disturbing. It’s enlightening!

Where Anayah followed her heart, I would have done what was expected of me. That bugs me just a little bit.

But now I’m even more excited now to see how this game unfolds. Not just the story line, but Anayah’s character development. Will I cave and force her to be more conventional, more normal, more … boring? (Inside voice)

Maybe I’ll make her a real bad-ass, and then – just for fun – one night when we’re in the middle of combat, I’ll have her squeal like a little girl and hide behind the big, burly Monk! You know, keep ‘em on their toes. Throw a wowie into the game.

Hey, it’s D&D. Anything’s possible when you’re getting your geek on.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

An Apple a Day... Streams Video Easily

I may not understand much about the technology that plays such a huge part in my life; it’s kind of like electricity: I use it, I appreciate it, but I have no idea how it works.  It’s just there.   I depend on it and I love it.

There was a time when I thought that cell phones were like electric can openers – basically useless.  Now I carry one with me everywhere.  This little computer that slips so elegantly into my pocket is a life line when I need one, a quick connection to people I need to communicate with and a small bit of comfort.  My iPod helps keep me organized and entertained.  My laptop enables me to play, work, buy and sell.  And now I have a new toy. 

It’s a tiny black box about 1”x4”x4” that sits on my TV stand.  It has no dials or switches or knobs of any kind, just a power cord and an HDMI connection port.  When it’s working, a soft blue LED light indicates that it’s on.  It came with a slim remote only 5” long and 1” wide.  Together these two small devices enable me to stream video and audio to my TV via my wi-fi connection simply and easily.  As I write this classic rock is filling my living room with Ian Thomas’ Painted Ladies.  How’s that for a blast from the past?  It strikes me as somewhat ironic that most of what I listen to and watch was created long before the technology I use to listen and watch was even fathomed. 

Isn't it cute?

The Apple TV box is not new on the market.  It’s been around for a while – at least two new generations of the device have been released since the original in 2006.  So I’m not exactly getting in on the ground floor of some great new revolution in media delivery technology.  But I’m certainly enjoying it now that I’m on board.  Radio, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, movie purchase and rentals…  all at the touch of a button! 

It’s Brilliant!

I love options!

Now I just have to figure out how to hook up my speakers so that the audio doesn’t sound like it’s generated from inside a tin can.  The ones I have sound reasonably good – at least for my needs.  But I need an optical audio cable and a converter box. 

I’m guessing a trip to the electronics store is now in order.  I’m determined to figure this out and make it work.

 (And while I’m out, I must remember to pick up some salad dressing…)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gracie's Bath

So the plan was this: fill up Gracie, buy groceries, buy primer and paint for spare room, come home, put away groceries, have lunch, prep for painting, prime walls, have dinner, watch a movie.

As usual, I procrastinated a bit. I wrote and posted a blog, played a bit of Angry Birds and generally accomplished none of the things on my list. At a little after 10 a.m. I gave myself the proverbial kick in the butt and had a shower. Probably not the wisest idea as the intention was to do some painting and that would, inevitably, require another shower later. Oh, well. It got me moving.

Showered, dressed and with a grocery list ready, I went outside to start Gracie. Gracie is my 13-year-old mini-van and on Friday she went in for an oil change. As part of the service, the dealer always washes the vehicles they service and so Gracie emerged with fresh oil in her veins all clean and shiny. On the way home we discussed her need for a transmission flush and I instructed her to hold on for a few more weeks. It’s a pretty expensive procedure!

Anyway, I parked and locked Gracie up when I got home. The temperature gauge was dropping in concurrence with the weatherman’s predictions of minus 20 Celsius. A bit chilly, but not too bad. I didn’t see any need to plug Gracie in as she’s pretty reliable yet at that temperature. There she say until I finally got organized enough to go out and do my errands.

As I approached Gracie, key fob in hand, I pressed the magic button to release her locks. I reached for the driver’s door handle and pulled. Nothing happened.

I pressed the magic button again, thinking that maybe it hadn’t worked the first time.

Still nothing.

The door was frozen shut!

Well, crap.

I pressed the buttons, locking and unlocking the doors a few times. Other than the familiar sound of the locks catching and releasing, confirming that the fob was working, this activity served absolutely no purpose. All of the doors were frozen shut!

I yanked. I reefed. I pulled. I swore a little.

Then, finally, the rear hatch gave and swung up and open. For the first time since getting Gracie, I noticed how far away the dash is from the back of the van. “Mini, my ass!” (No comments from the peanut gallery necessary.)

But there was nothing else to do except climb in and clamber over the seats and other detritus to get to the front of the van. Once in the driver’s seat, I started Gracie. She protested and I begged her forgiveness and encouraged her to give one for the Gipper as I really needed groceries, if not paint and primer!

She obliged a little less than willingly and I then turned my attention to the door. I pulled on the handle and shoved my shoulder against it as hard as I could.

The door flew open and the momentum of my push dragged me out with it. I grabbed the steering wheel just in time to prevent myself from becoming a humiliated – and quite possibly wounded – heap on ground. I swear Gracie laughed at me. Either that or her mature mechanisms were showing their age.

I left Gracie to warm up to the idea of actually having to transport me to and from my destinations and returned to the warmth and comfort of Alegria to gather up the bits and pieces I would require to complete my intended errands: grocery list, blanket (to colour match the paint), purse, phone, gloves… Well, you know.

Gracie is a valued and trusty part of my life. She may not be beautiful, she may not have all the bells and whistles that some vehicles do and she may not be the fastest or most popular make and model on the road, but she gets me where I need to go and back again. She’s not greedy; fuel doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Her insurance premiums are modest and other than a few quirks, she works just fine. Except for regular oil changes and tire rotations and other such maintenance, she doesn’t spend much time in the shop. (Touch wood!)

I do hope, though, that it warms up and her doors unfreeze soon. I don’t treasure the idea of crawling into the driver’s seat through the back hatch too often. Or I could just suck it up and walk! Spring will be here soon enough!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Russia, Malaysia, UK, Australia, Poland.... With Love

My little blog is not the most viewed or the most popular of blogs on the Internet.  It has 8 followers, which, after all these years is, to say the least, somewhat disappointing.  Granted, it was never really intended as anything more than an outlet through which I could practice writing.  And it’s basically a public diary of thoughts, events and observations.  So, yeah, I don’t really expect it to rock the blogging world in any significant way. 

Sometimes I think that I don’t want to do it any more.  Sometimes I say to myself:  Self, what’s the point?  If you want to keep a diary, just go buy a notebook. 

I have a stack of notebooks in my closet that are filled with my musings from days gone by.  Mostly they contain rants about people who annoyed me on any given day and pep talks to myself, ridiculous attempts to convince myself that all was well.  It so wasn’t!  I keep meaning to burn them.  One day I will haul them out, rip them up and feed them to the fire.  

I do have a little notebook that I keep by my bed.  I jot down the ideas that pop into my head as I’m trying to go to sleep.  What is it about that time of day?  I’m tired and looking forward to getting a good sleep and just when I turn out the light and my head hits the pillow – Bam! – 6 billion synapses detonate, giving birth to some fabulous new brainchild.  Ninety-six percent of these late-night notions are not so fabulous come the light of day.  But the other 4% are well worth the trouble of turning the light back on and making note of, if only to facilitate a peaceful and sufficient amount of sleep.   Now if I could just recover my penmanship so I could decipher them again, I could very well become wealthy someday. 

I follow several blogs.  They are inspiring, funny and sometimes poignant.   And I admit to a small pang of envy when I see how many followers some of them have.   What are these people saying that so many people are interested in reading?  What am I not saying? 

One of the features of my blog is stats.  I check them often.  On a good day, they tell me that 40 people have read my blog.  When I look at the audience, these people are mostly from Canada and the US, which is expected and makes sense.  Then there are the people from… Russia?  Malaysia?  Australia?  The UK?  Poland?  People in Poland read my blog!  How?  Why?  Who are these people?  And why don’t they “follow”?  Why don’t they comment?  Hardly anyone ever leaves a comment.   

I’m genuinely curious about these people.  I sincerely want to know what they think.  I welcome feedback, even criticism as long as it’s constructive and not nasty.  Is it a language issue?   
When I first started blogging on Blogspot, I used to get comments from someone, but they were written in some sort of oriental script.  I tried copying and pasting them into translation generators, but never found the right language.  Once I did get a bunch of gibberish, random words that made no sense whatsoever.  Then the comments stopped. 

Maybe these people are not actually reading my posts.  Maybe they stumble upon them, but don’t read them at all.  I can see the eye-roles now…  “Not another blog!”  Click! 
But if they do…  Well, how cool is that?  The idea of people so far away, complete strangers reading my words is just a little bit thrilling.   

I do enjoy blogging.  Even though Yemalla’s Moon serves no real purpose other than as a stage for me to vent what’s on my mind and share what I’m up to, I like doing it.  I guess, in the big scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter who reads these words or what they think or who they are; that isn’t really the point.  But if you do happen to stop by and you do happen to take the time to read whatever has kept me from whatever else I probably should be doing instead, please say hi at least.  I really would like to hear from you as well.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tasseomantic Experience!

If you’ve never had your tea leaves read, I highly recommend it. It’s fun. It’s interesting. And it’s enlightening.

The art of tasseomancy or tasseography began humbly in medieval times when people read symbols found in wax or lead spatters. Tea – a much nicer medium – was introduced in the 17th century when the Dutch began importing tea into Europe. In middle-Eastern countries the art of reading coffee sediment has enjoyed a long and prosperous history and wine sediment readings have been around since Bachus first brewed berries into delightful spirits.

It helps if you like tea. But it’s okay to use the leaves from herbal infusions as well. A finer grind is better than chunks of stems or leaves, as it tends to sink as it steeps, preventing it from being sipped up by the person having the reading. The sipping part is supposed to be relaxing, so unless you enjoy getting bits of infused tea leaves stuck in your teeth, settled material is preferable. Once the tea is drunk to the point where it’s difficult to continue sipping without drinking in the tea leaves as well the reading can begin.

I was instructed to hold the cup in my left hand, twirl the remaining liquid three times widdershins and then, with the saucer covering the cup, flip the cup upside down so that the leaves and liquid would be caught by the saucer. Then I had to wait. The leaves needed time to settle into their final patterns before they could be interpreted.

I had dolphins, seahorses and a sailboat show up in my reading. A dinosaur also appeared. But mostly there was a big blob of tea leaves that was muddying my future. The dolphins indicated playful social activities. The seahorses, in my recent past, showed that I have a new outlook on life. The little sail boat recently delivered gifts from far away. All very true. The dinosaur triumphantly conquers some sort of possible trouble buried within that pesky blob through the revival of something from my past. Sadly there was no romance or riches forecast in the next few months. (Sigh.)

Over the years, I have studied and attempted to learn a few different forms of divination with varying degrees of success. Palmistry mystified me and runes baffled me. I found pendulums to be quite fickle and scrying to by quite trying. I had the greatest success with Tarot cards, doing readings for others for 20 years. I never did try tea leaf reading.

During the holidays I was privileged to get a reading from a new friend of mine who developed her own unique form of divination by reading stones and shells that she has collected and assigned specific meanings to. It was one of the best readings I’ve ever had done for me. Though it, too, left out the romance and the riches!

As a Tarot card reader, I learned that the cards were merely a tool. I didn’t need them in order to give people information; they served as a point of focus for the energy exchange that was taking place between me and the client. All I really needed was to be empathetic and compassionate and open myself to the energy that was being freely given. I could not tell anyone anything they didn’t already know – subconsciously. What was happening, had happened or would happen was already being created. The only thing that separates anyone from their past, present or future is the willingness to look within.

I grew weary of the dependency that some people put on the readings I did for them. I was always very careful to council my clients that they were the authors of their fates and that they could choose to change the direction of the paths they walked at any time. My only goal in doing readings was to assist people in connecting with themselves and taking conscious steps to create the lives they wanted. It didn’t always work that way. As someone who enjoys having readings done for me – and having an understanding of the process – I accept the call to consciousness being given to me and use that information to re-evaluate and reshape myself and my life.

My tea leaf reading this morning was fun. I was pleased to see the young reader opening herself up to the process. It was heart-warming and, I must admit, I felt a twinge of pride in her engagement in learning. What a thrill it is to see her spiritual gifts coming to the forefront.

I don’t know if I will ever take up the cards again. At the moment, I am focussing on developing my artistic skills through digital media and am looking forward to applying them in some spiritual respect. I don’t know what the will be yet. In the meantime, I will also look forward to more readings – tea leaf or otherwise – when the opportunities present themselves. One of these days there will be romance and riches!

Blessings, All!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New TV Stand

I spent a day – or most of one – in the basement over the holidays.  I came up for air, lunch and a Skype session with my grandchildren around 11 a.m., but otherwise, I was in the shop finishing my new TV stand.  It was so nice to have some uninterrupted time to just work on a project that has been on the list for a while now. 

After completing the book shelves some time ago, I decided to make a matching TV stand.  During the process, it became painfully clear that I need a) a better work bench; b) that coveted sliding mitre saw; and c) more practice!  Not sure in what order they will appear.  Or what order they should appear.  But they will I’m sure.

Apparently, I need more movies to balance things out.    
It’s rather difficult to level things when the work bench I’m working on is tippy.  A functioning level might not hurt either.  The tiny, little level that I have was broken while building the storage shelves so it’s not at all reliable.  And it’s very tiny, which would have been fine in this case, had it not been broken. 

I was forced to improvise by taking myriad measurements and then backing those up by eye-balling the different bits and pieces.  All in all, it seemed to work out okay.   The stand itself is relatively square (another thing I need to invest in if I’m going to keep creating this stuff) and sturdy enough to hold my TV, DVD player, movies, CDs and CD player. 

I did forget one thing:  progress pictures.  I was so caught up in the Zen of construction that I didn’t even think to snap a few shots.  Oh, well.  Documenting Good Enough Construction’s projects is probably not all that necessary.

So now I’m designing coffee and end tables to match the TV stand and book shelves.  I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to make them work, but I have a vague plan in mind.  I also think that I’ll hold out for the sliding mitre saw before I tackle them.  Or I’ll invest in a clamping straight edge so that I have a proper guide for the circular saw.  My cuts are getting better, but I’d rather not have to do the sanding that I had to do on the TV stand to correct the wiggly-ness that I so easily manage to achieve at present.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Strapping on my cute pink show shoes for
the first time in over 30 years.

At some point in my youth… Around the age of 14 or 15 or so, I had the opportunity to strap on a pair of snow shoes and trek through an open field.  The wood and sinew snow shoes weighed a ton.  I had to swing my legs out to the side, lifting the snow shoes around each other in order to make any progress.  It was hard work and it was wonderful.

CA eating snow off a spruce branch
along the trail.  
I remember thinking when I first moved to Houston that snow shoeing would be a fun thing to take up.  We certainly had the snow for it.  But it never happened.  Instead, I ended up getting married, having a few kids and things like trekking about in the snow were not a priority. 
One of the spectacular
sights deep in "Merkwood"
Winter sports – sports in general, actually – have never held great appeal for me.  You are not likely to find me down at the gym working out or on the field or court scoring goals or points.  It just isn’t me.  (Although, I did quite enjoy badminton back in the day.)  I like walking.  That’s about it.   Walking is enjoyable and, while it may not be a sport, it’s about as ambitious as I get when it comes to “exercise.” 
Walking in the winter is just as enjoyable, but it can be somewhat more problematic, particularly if you have a hankering to walk off-road. 
Breaking trail.
This past summer, I came across two pairs of snow shoes at a yard sale for $10 each.  I was thrilled and quickly withdrew a crisp $20 bill from my wallet to give in trade for this amazing treasure.  The snow shoes were not wood and sinew.  They were aluminium and plastic.  One pair was blue and one pair was pink.  I could hardly wait for winter.  As it turned out, I traded the blue pair, which was much too big for me, to a friend for her husband in exchange for a smaller pair for my daughter.  I purchased a pair of Nordic ski poles and some warm snow pants and I was set.  We were all set!  Let the snow shoeing adventures begin!
My first trek was a short one along the dike to gather wood for my Yule tree project.  My second trek was through a local park and along the dike with some friends at a snow shoeing workshop.  My third trek was a 45-minute hike with friends through another local park.

Oops!  It's harder than it looks!  L lost her footing and
down she went.
Gathering sticks along the dike.  
On Boxing Day my daughter and two dear friends went to another dear friend’s home, a gorgeous 250 acre parcel of land just out of town where we strapped on our snow shoes and left civilization behind for a 90-minute trek through the woods and across the field.  It was amazing.   The crisp winter air filled our lungs and the soft blanket of snow packed under our feet as we followed a winding trail through the bush.  We followed fence lines for a time.  We climbed hills and descended into dips.  There were a couple of wipe-outs as some of us fell laughing in the snow.  And all too soon, we found ourselves back at the beginning a little tired, but even more rejuvenated with our cheeks aglow with smiles all around.
Just starting out on the path through
the woods.

Snow shoeing does not facilitate conversation very well.  It’s hard to talk when you are concentrating on not tripping over your over-sized feet.  What it does facilitate, though, is a common bond with nature, a communion of silent companionship and a deep appreciation for shared experience.  Together we walked in a winter wonderland as five friends.   And that is priceless.