Monday, September 01, 2008

All Moved In

It took us three days but, on Saturday, we were all moved into our new place in Sandy Hill.  It was a tense few days.

On Wednesday I called to re-confirm our U-haul reservation and found out that we only have the truck from 8am til 4pm.  That sucked.  It meant that Angie and I would be doing it ourselves on Friday.  Thursday, feeling we might be pressed for time on Friday with the U-haul, I went down the street and prayed I could get a vehicle so that we could move some boxes over and leave the Friday move for only furniture.  Luck had it that the only vehicle that Budget had was... an 8-seater van.  Aw darn.  And because it was the only thing they had, I got 15% off the price of the rental and the insurance.  Done!

With Erin's help, Angie and I moved three loads of boxes over to the new place.  Friday morning, I took a bus out to Coventry Rd and waited for only 45 mins (one guy had been there for 1.5 hours) and got the 14'x10' truck.  We loaded that all up and were doing well until around 1:45.  At that point, we realized there was no way we could finish on time that day and had no means of renting anything else from anywhere.  I made a panicked call to my parents and, thankfully, they were able to come in on Saturday with a trailer.  Aaron was also able to help and so, with 5 of us, we got the rest of the stuff moved in one and a half loads.  My parents also dropped off one of their sofas for us.  Woohooo!  Actual living room furniture.  Exciting!  By 3pm all the moving was finished.

By 4:30pm, Angie and I had finished doing a clean-up of the old place and headed out.  BBQ at Suzi and Jamie's was freakin' awesome and all the better given all the work we had done.  Yesterday, I handed the keys over to the landlord, got my deposit cheque back, a cheque for $50 for the blinds I left the new tenant and, most importantly (in terms of principles) I got the money for the phone cabling and hookup I had to do last November.  $175, only 9 months late.

All is well here at the new place.  Pele was a bit freaked out on Thursday and Friday as we had to shut her in the bathroom.  She settled in no problem here and right now she's with me, chillin' in the open window of the second bedroom/computer room.

I also have an interview tomorrow morning for the Communications Officer position with NRC.  If I get that, I'll be dancing in the streets.  So all is well and Angie and I are very pleased with our new place.  Pretty boring blog post, but hey... there you have it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dark Knight

Okay, best movie I've seen in a long while. It had a Blade Runner feel to it in that it felt like we were in the theatre for 4-5 hours when it was only 2.5 hours. We saw it at 3:30pm on Friday, at the Imax screening at Silvercity.

As I'm sure has been said all over teh intarweeb, Heath Ledger was fantastic. The Joker was unpredictable, pulled no punches and was insidious. He was a much more true-to-form Joker than Jack Nicholson. The make-up job was more appropriate and less '60s comic book style. Jack Nicholson had the crazy thing going on but Heath Ledger made me tense when he was on-screen. His insanity was much more homicidal and eerie. He was just... I don't even know the word for it. He just had a simmering yet cold insanity. He had nothing to lose, so he had no weaknesses. He was free to do whatever he wanted, and had no moral issues with pushing that to extremes. The greatest thing about the Joker as a character is that he's free of all restraints whereas Batman is not. That's what makes them a superb hero-villain pairing - they're such great foils for each other.

It was an all 'round amazing movie, far surpassing Batman Begins in feel and intensity. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Dark Knight given that I love "genesis" comic book movies; I like to see how it comes about and how the characters test and evolve their roles. This movie gave everything to the story and characters, though there was no build-up and it started pretty much right after the first one. The characters were more involved and connected to the story as opposed to appearing and just providing a gadget or bit of advice. It gave the movie a more full, real feel. Aaron Eckhart was a great addition to the central cast.

I could keep talking about it but my point is simple: Go see it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hellboy 2. . .

. . . was a huge pile of steaming shit. If you want to sit through two hours of uninspired drivel just to see a few Pan's Labyrinth-esque critters, be my guest. I haven't wanted to walk out of a theatre in a very long time, but I nearly did for this one. If Guillermo del Toro pulls this kind of shit with The Hobbit, he can expect me to go Senate vs Julius Caesar on his f'ugly ass. I honestly would have enjoyed some shitty-ass teenage romantic-comedy more than that. The sad part is I didn't go in with inflated expectations. There's a big difference between "It wasn't as good as I thought it'd be" and "It wasn't good."

The only positive of having gone to the theatre tonight was that I saw a great trailer for the Clone Wars theatrical release of the show. August 15... I will so be there. It makes me wish Episodes I-III had been done in that CG style.

The prognosis for Pele is good. Well, not good but curable. She has a hyper-active thyroid. Cats are supposed to have 50 (points? whatever) and Pele has 215. Not. Good. So she'll go on medication soon (maybe tomorrow), and I'll change her food over tomorrow. The good news there is that I don't have to put her down. Phew. The other good news is that she checks out everywhere else - her health is good all around, with some minor potassium issues and her protein something or other is a tad low. Might be caused by her thyroid issue, so we'll resolve that and see what happens in a month.

Do - not - go - see - Hellboy 2. That is all.

Oh, and I'm in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning beta. That's all I can say besides saying that there is a beta, which is sort of pointless since, if I'm in the beta, obviously there is one. *squeal of joy!*

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wretched News & Fantastic News

Guess I'll start with the bad news first. It looks like I'll have to put Pele down soon. She's really showing her age, and having trouble with her bowels. She sleeps most of the day and doesn't move much otherwise. She still shows a spring in her step sometimes, but usually she's slow and has taken to sleeping in strange places: behind the toilet, under the bed. Poor girl doesn't even talk much anymore. I'm going to try some new cat food for her ummm... toilet issues, but it's just a stop-gap measure, I think. If we can keep her going til the end of August, she may find some new vitality in our new place. . .

Which is the great news - Angie and I have found a place and we signed for it yesterday. It's an awesome two-bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer, a nice rooftop deck, all hardwood floors, an actual dining room (on top of a massive living room and two really good-sized bedrooms). We're very excited. We'll move in at the end of August. We have it as of the 25th of August, so that gives us some time to move. I don't want to be doing it on the 1st of Sept, as that'll be crazy. We'll likely rent a U-haul and take a load on the Friday, and then see if we can't get some help for the bigger stuff on the Saturday.

So booo... and yay.

Edit: I'm taking Pele into the vet tonight. We'll have some blood tests done and have her checked out. However, if things don't look good...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Driving... HOOOO!

Everyone beware - I am now road-worthy. Re-did my G2 driving test yesterday and had no issues. Glad to have that done (again... after 12 years).

Work is all wrapped up and I'm looking for summer work/another permanent job. Also looking for a new apartment for Angie and I. My 1-bedroom place was great for one person, but we have zero room and the place is maelstrom of possessions.

So that's all in the works. Not too much else to report.

Oh, PG and I started a new blog on table-top gaming. It's called Gamers' Handbook (for now). That name will likely change to something a bit more... ummm... good.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Day of Days - 4th Edition Unleashed

Well, the day finally arrived, and Angie could tell you that, in these last few days, I was as annoying as a 4-year-old anticipating the approach of Christmas. So as happy as I am to have the books, I'm sure she's just as relieved not to have to hear about it anymore.

I am not disappointed in D&D 4th Edition. I got the boxed set (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual) for $90, taxes included, from Fandom II. That's $5 off the U.S. price for each book. Purdy sweet.

I'm not going to review them, since Gnome Stew has done an awesome and comprehensive review of all three books. I absolutely agree with everything he's written, including the WoW or MMO influences and feel of some of the material.

This is quite the geeky weekend, actually. Yesterday, I picked the boxed set up at 11am, then met my buddy, Pat, at the Royal Oak for lunch, beer and oodles of geek-talk. We were there so long that Angie actually came to meet us after she finished work (5:30). ... yeah, many pints were drunk.

Today, I'm playing the Keep on the Shadowfell module (round 2 since we suffered a total party kill last time) with my new gaming group and, tomorrow, I'm getting together with my old Ottawa D&D gang for a beer and some catching up. I haven't seen any of them in 2 years. Should be great! I will also try to recruit some of them for a game that I want to run in the near future, ideas for which have been coursing through my mind since getting my grubby hands on the new books.

Thankfully, Angie understands my need for geek stimuli and, if not endorsing it, certainly accepts and tolerates it. With a smile, even. I don't think there is higher mark of excellence in a significant other than one who accepts and obliges in their loved one a hobby or activity they find incomprehensible, strange and/or time consuming. I'm sure Pascal and Angela both will wholeheartedly agree.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Penny Arcade and PVP play D&D

Okay, this freakin' rocks. I just downloaded the ((download link)) first segment of an all-day D&D game played by the two guys from Penny Arcade (scroll down), a guy from PVPOnline and Chris Perkins from Dungeons & Dragons R&D.

Holy crap is it funny.

"Did you choose a name?"

"Yeah, I'm Jim Darkmagic."

"Wha--? No. What? Why don't you just call yourself Trent Awesome-Laser."



"Yeah, I'm from the New Hampshire line of Darkmagics."

These guys fuckin' slay me. It's damn funny. I'm 12 minutes in right now, and the game is getting going with Chris Perkins telling them about D&D stuff at a high level (hit points, and such).

If you can't access the link to download, just register. Dragon (which the podcasts are a subset of) and Dungeon, the two publications, require the registration (which is free).

7 more days til 4th edition release!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day After 'Keep on the Shadowfell'

Last night was my first session with the new gaming group, and our first run through 4th edition D&D rules using the pre-rules release module, "Keep on the Shadowfell." The guys were all nice and, after BBQ sausages and chatting for a bit, we divvied up the character sheets and dug into the game.

Due to the fact the characters were pre-made, there was some question as to why and how some of the abilities were arrived at, but we played what we had. Within 5 minutes, we were ambushed by kobolds and found out that they weren't the same as the 3.5 edition cannon-fodder kobolds. Seems most critters have racial abilities, and kobolds are Shifty... they can 'shift' (move 5') as a free action. That meant they could come up, hit us, then move back. Then, when we went for 'em, they'd shift back again (using the free action) and we couldn't come in range. Enormous pain in the ass, given we were mostly close-range fighters.

Powers were pretty complementary. The Warlord and Paladin had group-enabling powers, most of which were activated with an attack. Paladin's was a once-a-day power that did 3d8+5 damage to a single target and allowed any one ally within 5 squares (25') to use a healing surge.

Healing surges are a handy new addition. Everyone has X healing surges per day. Only one can be used in combat. That's called a second wind. A healing surge gives you back 1/4 your health. While a second wind can only be taken once per combat, lots of abilities courtesy of the Warlord, Cleric or Paladin can allow someone to take a healing surge in addition to a second wind already taken.

Anyhoo... at the end of the night, we had a TPK... a total party kill. I've never been in a gaming group that's been wiped out, certainly not in the first game. The final encounter, however, was a bit overkill. Not enough minions (a great new 'fodder' feature for select baddies') and too many decent-strength kobolds. We also couldn't have outrun them, anyway. They could move farther each round than we could.

Overall, the rules are decent and work well. Game flow is vastly improved and there's a lot less of the "crap, I'm out of abilities - guess we have to camp" situations. After an encounter, a group can pause for a few minutes, use up healing surges to heal and regain once-an-encounter power. This allows for a lot more get-up-and-go and keeps things moving.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

4e Cometh

I've been a gamer for a long time; about 15 years. I started with AD&D 2e (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition) back in grade 8, courtesy of James D. and a few others. We'd gather in the library over our 40-minute lunch time and smack a few orcs, then head back to class. (I think we were the ones responsible for the library's subsequent "no students at lunch time" policy.)

For me, it's rarely been about the game or game system. It's been very social. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to meet some exceptional people through gaming. Even years later, I'm very good friends with most of those, especially the first group, from Kingston. (I can proudly claim to have taught Pascal's daughter how to pick up and throw dice with her toes, and no one will forget Angela's trembling fear of Pascal's pink d20... or the smoked-meat watermelon...)

So... now, 4 years after 3.5 edition arrived, 4th edition (4e) is two weeks away. Normally, I'd be in the "dammit - now I have to buy a whole new set of books and supplements" crowd. However, I haven't been a huge fan of 3e or 3.5e. The basics were alright, but nothing scaled with the game's progression. That was my overriding issue (as Pascal and Adrian know full well from my numerous rants).

Enter 4th edition. The changes are, frankly, pretty startling. They've done a lot of cleaning up, simplifying (without dumbing-down) and finally the characters will scale properly.

The first glimmer of hope came in the form of Star Wars Saga edition, a gaming system owned by Wizards of the Coast who also own D&D. They use the same core d20 system. When I saw the changes to SW, I was really happy with them and could only hope for much of the same for D&D.

Well... turns out it's even better. The classes are, as I predicted, designated for certain roles: leader, defender, striker and controller. The core races and core classes are also different. While there are still humans, dwarves, halflings, elves and half-elves, there are now dragonborn, tieflings and eladrin. Bye-bye, gnomes!

The core classes still include: Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Rogue, Ranger and Wizard, but now include Warlock and Warlord. Each has a role to play, and each has a tonne of flexible options based around a core strength or concept.

The big change is Powers. Feats and such still exist, but class abilities have been more or less replaced by Powers that fall into three categories: at-will, encounter and daily powers. These are pretty self-explanatory. They change everything, and most powers have secondary effects that either aid the group at large (excellent) or impedes the baddies. The entire design philosophy seems to be one of creating complementary roles. Finally.

The issue of scale has been fixed by allowing damage, skill bonus, defense and attack bonus to advance as the character does. In D&D 3.0 and 3.5, only certain skill bonuses advanced, and attack power was the only constant advancement bonus.

Anyhoo... it's quite exciting and I'm very much looking forward to it. Next Friday, I'm playing "Keep on the Shadowfell", a 4e pre-release module with quick-play rules and pre-made characters. I've found a new gaming group and the DM seems awesome. I'm still with the Star Wars gang but we haven't actually played a game yet. I think we're supposed to kick off Star Wars on June 7th. Regardless, found a guy who already has a group who was looking for one more for D&D 4th edition. Yay! So we'll see how that is.

Unrelated to D&D, Age of Conan: Hybrorian Adventures is out tomorrow (pre-order early release, anyway). I guess we'll see how that is. It's a MMO-style online game, like WoW, but a whole lot grittier and darker. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Conan Reborn in... Riddick?

I've been reading the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories lately, having just bought and received the last two in the reprinted series that consists of The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Conquering Sword of Conan and The Bloody Crown of Conan.

I always read a bit before going to bed, and Angie always asks "So how's Conan doing in this one?" The answer, of course, is that he's kickin' ass and taking names, blackmailing priests and barons, outsmarting bureaucrats and eviscerating Picts. She and I talked about the early 20th Century need for an all-hero, one who is well versed in everything. Superman is a good example. Conan is another. The contemporary image of Conan - courtesy of Arnie - is that of a dumb, buff barbarian lopping off heads and carrying off maidens. And punching out camels.

Oh, how wrong. Conan's resume would read something like: Barbarian, master woodsman, reluctant general, armoured warrior, fearless reaver, lone wanderer, stoic mountaineer, panther-esque thief, bloody pirate, well-dressed pirate lord and... despondent king. Again, however... he's good at everything.

I was watching Pitch Black the other night and it struck me: Riddick (from Pitch Black) is Conan. He's calm, has good lines, is clearly superior to those around him despite pedigree and has no regard for those who are not, in his view, worthy. Worthy of what? Worthy of living, worthy of being capable, worthy of accomplishment, worthy of rising above self-pity and other human foibles. Riddick is a murderer, he's a tracker, he's observant, he's resourceful, he's knowledgeable, he has a code of honour sans guile, he's pragmatic and visceral. Above all, however... both Riddick and Conan are care-takers.

Ironic, no? Yet that's the basic theme in Pitch Black: Riddick sees everyone through, becoming magnanimous despite his overarching instinct to survive and come out on top. Conan is exactly the same. Regardless of what he's doing or where, Conan is a care-taker. Yes, of women (good ol' mostly-useless 1930s women as Howard wrote them) but mostly of men; powerful men of high standing with no morals to speak of, low men who are victims of circumstance, etc.

Interestingly... he's usually only ever a care-taker of white people. In the story I'm reading now, there is even a mention by one unsavoury pirate that Conan would never abandon him and his men to the Picts (who are black or "dark"). Conan then affirms this judgement, saying something to the effect of "Indeed, while you may be fools, I cannot leave other white men to die at the hands of another race."

Interesting. Not something to get up in arms about, since Hyboria is actually extremely culturally and ethnically diverse and many characters of "non-white" races are well portrayed, but it's still interesting.

Anyhoo... that's my rant. I'll trying to think of other examples of "Conans reborn." And if you haven't read the original stories and are a fan of classic fantasy fiction, get them. They're great reads and, hey, even H.P. Lovecraft had great things to say about Howard's writing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Grand Theft Childhood - A New Study on Video Game Violence

This is an interesting look at violence in games and social or behavioural carry-over.

A synopsis for those uninterested in the entire segment: In a one- or two-year study of 1250 children from across the U.S., Harvard researchers found a behavioural pattern amongst both boys and girls: Those who did not play violent video games were/are more likely to have real-life behavioural issues and manifest violence against others. The other extreme that applies to boys only is that those who played violent or mature games for more than 15 hours a week also displayed similar behavioural dispositions.

Now that's interesting. Playing violent or mature games actually leading to reduced risk of social violence?

Given the amount of research (and/or opinion) on the other side of the fence, viz. that violent games cause and reinforce unhealthy and harmful behaviours, I expect both the book and its study results to come under a great deal of fire.

On this same topic, I read an article a few weeks ago. It discussed research done on brain patterns of video game players. To paraphrase, it found that stress levels and aggression receded while playing violent games, especially online games that focused on fighting real people over the net. I'll try to track that down and post it here, or in another post. It also talked about stress and anxiety levels of merely wounding another player in game vs killing them. Anxiety and fear brain responses were triggered in situations where the player did not outright kill or otherwise remove an enemy player. Killing or removing them caused a healthy release of *insert medical term I can't remember here*, promoting bodily health.

Terra Nova is a "collobarative weblog featuring several important scholars in the field. General focus is MMORPGs and social aspects of online gaming communities." It tends to deals with MMO-style game influences, lessons learned, how to apply virtual theory to real-world situations, etc. I haven't read much of it because it tends to deal mainly with Second Life and EVE:Online, neither of which I have any interest in. However, the articles make for interesting reading given the prominence in the field of the authors.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Too funny to pass up

Courtesy of Penny Arcade. As 'Tycho' wrote:

It's a little inside baseball I guess, but at the same time the story was so delicious that we couldn't leave it be: a District Attorney in Texas is on trial for building himself a sweet rig on the county dime. This machine in question sports "two hard drives, seven fans, high-end video and audio cards, a wireless Internet connection and cables that glow under ultraviolet light." It's a crime, yeah, but it's an awesome crime. I make an exception for awesome crimes.

"I would not configure a backup computer in that way," says Mr. Gregg, FBI senior forensic examiner and reigning Understatement King.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh yeah... this thing

Wow... colour me forgetful. I think I may have beaten Kelly in the "no posts in forever" competition.

As the media world has already blabbed on and on about... Gary Gygax died last week at the age of 69. For those of you who don't know who he is, look him up. At a glance, it may seem like his contribution was small, but he shaped the lives of millions of people, creating a life-long hobby/obsession for many and creating a foundation for multi-billion-dollar industries.

Not too much is new, I'm afraid. Work is going on strong now that the minority government has evaded all threats of a non-confidence vote (Afghanistan mission, budget, etc.). Everything is great with Angie, which isn't making Pele happy, I don't think.

Something occured to me the other day while playing World of Warcraft. I wonder why no schools have taken up the auction house function in the game to demonstrate real-time economics. I'm sure someone would love to make a bundle from an already-developed application, and I'm sure Blizzard would love the exposure and positive publicity that comes with furthering education. (see my second point below)

The other day I read an article about WoW. It spoke about the negative aspects of game immersion. It naturally got me thinking about the positive elements of it and any MMO (massively multiplayer online [game]):

Team Work: I'd say that's a fairly ubiquitous and oft-desired trait, no? Playing a game whose very existence is founded on the inclusion of thousands of people simultaneously must, at some level, incorporate team work. It's quite possible to play a game like WoW and never really interact with others. However, in so doing, one would miss out on that which makes the medium unique in the same way going to Barbados and playing card games inside an air-conditioned room the whole time would.

Many portions of MMOs are designed for group play, and often require multiple groups to coordinate. In WoW, the largest group possible is 5 people. However, many raids require 5 groups to complete. In DAoC, I once led a raid that involved 170 people, and I'd been on 200 (max battlegroup size) raids. Size wouldn't be an issue if it was a free-for-all-slaughter-everything objective, but completion requires strategy and coordination. Once X had been completed, groups Z and Y had to move to S location and do blah while two other groups went somewhere else to active blah blah. The final objective took 20 minutes just to set up.

Does it always work out well? No. It's like herding labotimized cats most of the time. Do team work projects always work out well in real life? Nope. However, when you finish up (successfully), it's a huge rush. Same thing in-game.

Free-Market Economies: This is what made me think of MMO application in schools. "Whaa...?" you may be thinking. WoW is the best example out there. There is an auction house in every major city, and they're linked together to create a single market. Using these auction houses, players can buy and sell various items. As in the real world, people not doing any research or price-comparing get screwed.

I'll give an actual example from the game: wool and silk. Just like real life, the game professions rely on resources. Tailors (and others) need wool and silk to create products for themselves and to sell on the auction houses to make money to fund more production or to invest in other areas. Wool is a "lesser" grade item than silk - you get it earlier in the game, and it's used to make simpler, lower-tier items.

However... the demand for wool is consistently higher than silk. While a 'stack' of 20 pieces of wool can go for 2 gold, a stack of silk will only go for 70 silver. (100 silver = 1 gold) However, should 20 people go out and find wool and sell it over the course of a few hours, prices will suddenly bottom-out. In putting my product up for bidding or outright buyout, I check what wool prices are (if I have any sense). If 2g 30s (2 gold and 30 silver) is the lowest price, I put my stacks up for 2g 15s. The next guy sees my price is 2g 15s, so he makes his 2g, screwing me. The next guy sets his for 95s... and so on. Suddenly, the market is flooded and prices continue to drop, a great day to be a tailor in need of materials.

Also, finished products go for more than raw materials. I can put up 20 pieces of felhide for 15g, but if I turn that felhide into 5 armor kits, I can sell each kit for 5g. Finished product nets me 25g vs raw materials at 15g.

Opportunity Cost and Niche Abilities: Simply put, doing X means that you can't do Y. Even in fantasy worlds, one can't have everything or be the best at everything. If you want this ability, you have to sacrifice that ability.

Also, the kinds of characters you can play are [usually] carefully constructed. If you're playing a healer, chances are you can't fight well. If you're playing a fighter, chances are you can't heal well. But wait... what if they work together? Well whadaya know... they can accomplish three times as much as they could individually. Obviously, this ties back in to team work.

The best hypothetical example of this is archetypes system in Warhammer Online, as yet unreleased. Each faction has four archetypes: support, tank, melee DPS and ranged DPS. (DPS = damage per second, but has come to mean someone who does a lot of damage) They aren't all the same classes for each faction's archetype, but the roles are clearly established. A ranged DPS character isn't going to run up and swing at baddies, nor is a melee DPS character going to try to heal. The roles, while being flexible, are known well in advance of character creation. Groups in that game will have 6 slots, meaning a full group could have one of each archetype class, plus two spaces for whatever customization desired. You could have a group comprised completely of one archetype, but it will not be versatile or efficient.

Consequences: I suppose an issue a lot of parents have with games is that there are no consequences or, if there are, they aren't enforced or otherwise significant. In MMOs, there can be relatively huge consequences. Want to be a jerk and bad-mouth people in a public chat? You get temporarily banned from the game or, worse, people remember you and your infamous mouth. Suddenly need to get in on a group-necessary task? Too bad the leader of the group is someone who remembers your assinine antics. Bait another player into fighting you so you can have a laugh? Too bad his friends were standing nearby and creamed you afterwards. Nemesis, consequences... both great things.

Anyway... I feel like this isn't a great "back into blogging" post, but whatevah. Since returning from China, I find I have little to talk about. I like consistency and routine. That hardly makes for entertaining blogging.