Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Monday, December 31, 2007

Hello, 2008!

The neighbors and their explosive devices of questionable legality beyond the limits of a reservation are welcoming in the new year with window-shaking enthusiam. Millions of people are toasting its arrival with whatever fermented beverage happens to be at hand. And already people are looking ahead and wondering what 2008 will bring them, be it good (a better president) or bad (another Republican)... Sorry. Unfair shot, there... Anyway, only ten minutes in, and the new year has a monumental heap of expectations, hopes, dreams, and fears to live up to. Well, here's a few more to throw on the pile...

The 2008 Resolution List
  1. Restart my budget. Because I really need to get it pinned down.
  2. Organize, clean, and weed out my stuff. Because it needs doing, more badly than I care to admit.
  3. Walk and/or exercise at least three times a week. So I gave myself an out for cruddy weather... maybe this time it'll stick.
  4. Spend at least an hour a day creating (drawing, painting, writing, etc.) Another carryover.
  5. Fill at least three sketchbooks in a year. Because I seem to fall juuust short.
  6. Pick an instruction book or course on art or writing and follow through on it, start to finish. Maybe I need a little structure in my artistic meanderings...
  7. Finish at least one story for submission to contest or publication. A perennial favorite of mine... someday it's going to happen. I mean, heck, I never thought I'd sell anything I made, and last year I cleared four items.
  8. Learn to use my 2D and 3D art programs more competently. This is going to take some dedicated fiddling-around time...
  9. Maintain and promote websites more diligently. It's been ten years since I first launched the original version of my websites, after all; I ought to treat them better than I have been.
  10. Update website skills (including but not limited to learning XML, CSS, Flash, etc.) Because it's been ten years since I first launched the original version of my websites, and boy does it ever show...
  11. Post at least one new creation - artwork, story, Skyhaven critter, etc. - online per month. Yes, I sort of folded a few of 2007's missed resolutions together here...
  12. Investigate requirements for a business license. Since I seem to be making things to sell, I figure I ought to do things by the book. Besides, it sounds kinda fun to have a wholesale license. But, of course, it will require better bookkeeping than I do now, which ties back into Resolution #1...

Okay, 2008... let's see what ya got...

A Year Ends, Another Begins...

Well, 2007 only has two and a half hours left of life on this coast. Since I haven't seen any Internet bulletins about major catastrophes, I'm assuming that 2008 has indeed arrived as scheduled in the easterly regions. Thus it is once again time to review a year gone by and look forward to the one on the doorstep.

On the whole, I'd have to say that 2007 was a good year. I landed a job that (thus far) hasn't tried to kill me. I got some new technological toys which I still need to master: a personal DVD player, which will free me from reliance on the living room TV if/when I want to watch something, an MP3 player (from work), which, once mastered, will free me from reliability on battery-guzzling CD players when I'm sketching or at my workbench, and a new digital camera, which will free me from the cruddy zoom on my old digital camera and should enable me to take even lousier pictures with more class. I also sold a few things I created with my own two hands. Looking back to last January, I suppose I ought to dredge up the old Resolution list and see how I did.

2007 Resolutions (In Review)
  1. Attain a Source of Income. DONE, in January no less. Go, me! (Of course, it only took a bad axle on the car to undo all the monetary gain I'd managed in the year, and that without blowing money on such frivolities as the dentist or new glasses, but it's still a victory.)
  2. Write, Draw, and Create More. An ambiguous goal if ever I wrote one, but I can safely say I pulled it off; I filled 2.9 sketchbooks in 2007 and worked on two major stories, which is up from previous years. (Didn't finish them, but that's a different resolution altogether...)
  3. Spend at least one hour daily creating. Ouch... fell down on the job here, even if I did hit Resolution #2.
  4. Offer at least one item I have created for sale. Unexpectedly, and almost at the last minute (tail end of November), I actually hit this one, with the phenomenal bonus of actually selling something I'd created.
  5. Submit at least one story for a publication or contest. Hmm... must've slipped through the cracks...
  6. Post at least one work (art or story) a month on the Internet for public viewing. Er... the cats ate it? Another one that started out with great intentions, but just didn't end up happening.
  7. Organize and clean my space. I won't lie and even claim a partial victory. I managed the occasional dusting and clutter rearranging, but I still have as much junk as - actually a bit more than - I started with.
  8. Create and share at least one Flash game or animation. Oooh... I don't think I even opened Flash after March or so, even though I bought myself a fancy beginner-level Flash book (aimed at teens, because it had specific projects and lots and lots of pictures) to help me hobble along. Ouchie. Bad me.
  9. Update sites. I call this one done, because I did do some significant sitework this year. I brought back the Skyhaven Hunt and added content to all of my sites.
  10. Update or add at least five Skyhaven critters. In retrospect, I think I cheated when I wrote this, because I already said I'd update sites in Resolution #9. In the end, I can only claim 4/5 victory; I didn't pull off the last critter update/introduction. Sorry.
  11. Walk at least three times a week. Nope, didn't manage it. In my defense, I consider work a form of exercise - I've lost a belt-notch of girth since I started - but that's really no excuse and I know it. Dang it.
  12. Restart my budget and learn about investing. Another one I meant to do a million times, but never happened. I don't think I can really put it off much longer, though, so 2008 ought to see some progress on this front.

So, 4 4/5 out of 12... not a terrible average, considering my tendency to do as little as inhumanly possible as often as inhumanly possible. My resolutions for 2008 are already typed up, printed, and stuck to the closet door behind my computer, as 2007's were. There's a fair bit of carryover, but a couple of new ones. I'll post them once the clock's turned over, on the theory that accountability to the nonexistant readers of my blog might be an extra spur towards accomplishing things.

Two hours, ten minutes to go...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The 2007 Family Ornament Blitz - End Results

Yes, I managed to finish ornaments for the family again. I actually finished juuust before midnight, so nobody can accuse me of procrastinating. (Why, yes, I usually am up past midnight on Xmas Eve finishing the things...) In the interest of cluttering the internet and boring my nonexistent readers, I posted pictures taken with my old camera. Old camera, I hear you ask (deliberately ignoring the sarcasm)? Yes, old. I got a new Sony Cybershot for Xmas, but I have yet to figure out how to use the thing... consider this the last blast of the ol' reliable Fujifilm FinePix. I also got two books, three McFarlane dragon figurines, and other loot... but this post isn't about holiday loot. It's about ornaments. So, let the picturefest commence! Click the links to view my horrendous camerawork, or just read the descriptions and imagine them. I expect the latter will result in better impressions than the former, but whatever lights your tree...

Okay, first off, it should be noted that I did, indeed, have to scrap plans for sculpting with Paperclay. Demand for drum ornaments was greater than expected, so I just plain didn't have the time or space to clear my workbench for sculpting. So I did drums. I painted the sides in holiday colors (not visible in the photographs, unfortunately) and didn't fool with hanging drumsticks, but that's about it. Anyway, these are the fronts of the drums I did for Grandpa and Bob. Grandpa got an eagle, because it was in painting the eagle tamborine/drum for him that I came up with the idea for making drum ornaments for sale in the first place. My uncle got a ground sloth, because I traditionally do weird things for him. For one thing, he doesn't seem to have a "thing" to latch onto, and for another it's a bit of creative liberty. It's a giant ground sloth, if you can't tell. I wound up hybridizing a skeleton image with a cruddily-posed reconstruction, but I still couldn't get the feet and claws to look right. Ground sloths actually walked on the outer heel of their hands and feet, to protect their claws, and it's a pain in the tail to try painting that on the fly, especially on a small scale if you have minimal painting experience to begin with... not to mention cruddy brushes.

The backs of Grandpa and Bob's ornaments; should be easy to tell whose is whose. I was going for something a little different... dunno if it works or not, as it's hard to get a nice, clean line on canvas. At least, it is with my brushes... I think I need to try stiffer brushes, to get into the grain. But I digress.

My aunt and her husband got drums, too. Hers is the whale, as she loves whales. At least, she used to before I started making ornaments; I expect she's a bit sick of them by now, but it's her own fault for not telling me something else she likes. Her husband got a raven, because he likes Northwest Coast Native American stuff and ravens figure big in local myth cycles. Well, that and my original plans fell through and I happened to have some raven ref pics on hand for a last-minute substitution...

The backs of the previous ornaments. Annotation shouldn't be necessary here, so just ignore this pointless rambling sentence. And the one before it... and this one, too, for that matter.

For immediate family members, I had to do something different, because I just didn't have the time or space to do drums. I had painted up these paper mache books a couple years ago for ornament plans that fell through, so I dusted them off and finished them up with Elmer's metallic acrylic paint pens. (Have I mentioned how cool those things are? I mean, one or two coats actually covers even on dark backgrounds...) Mom's is green, Dad's is red, and my sister got a dark blue one that looks black in my lousy lighting.

The backs of the ornaments. (The spines just have "2007" on them, which I didn't deem photo-worthy.)

In the interest of saving space, and because my photos sucked burnt toast, I compiled the interiors of the books into one image. Yes, the books open... and, yes, that's shrink art. I go all out for my family, don't I? Mom got hummers, Dad got an alien and a rocket, and my sister got a unicorn and a narwhal (from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6kNxf6axY4 - frellin' hilarious YouTube video.)

Okay, so this one wasn't for family... it's the black panther drum I painted for a request at the store. It was the third drum I sold. (The hummingbird one was the second.) Oh, and the cougar drum sold, too, so I'm down to three in the store. I'll resume painting them after New Year's, or at least a few days after Xmas... I need a break now and again, after all.

Well, I suppose I ought to publish this thing and poke my head out of my room to see if family plans have been finalized. We're heading over to Grandpa's for the traditional family gathering there later today. In the meantime, I'm celebrating in the traditional fashion: vegging in front of the computer while listening to Xmas CDs and munching on cookies.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

X Minus 10 Days...

Not much of a blog entry here, but a few things of note.

First off, I did indeed drop off the drum ornaments at the store. I also finished two more drums (pictured above) as requests... or so I was led to believe. Evidently, the lady who asked about the hummer was really fishing for a cheap artist for a personal project. I may not be the greatest artist on the planet or the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know better than to work for dirt... But it's the other drum, the owl, that is noteworthy. Why? Why indeed... it is noteworthy because it is the first item I have not only created specifically for sale, but which actually sold. Yep, it sold. Cash in the store till and out the door sold. I have another request (black panther) which I need to finish before Friday, which is apparently a done deal in the sale department once I deliver the goods. I've already had my celebratory Peanut Buster Parfait at DQ just for taking the things to the store... I'll have to think of something else to do to celebrate a sale. (Okay, so the PBP was a split celebration of that and of the second anniversary of Hell... I still need to come up with something else to celebrate a sale with, because, much as I like them, there are only Peanut Buster Parfaits one can eat in a given timeframe.)
Now, this success has not been without a cost. What, you may ask, has been the cost? Well, for one thing, my websites haven't been touched - and I mean not even looked at - since the end of October. Skyhaven fans, sorry, but nothing is going to be added until after the new year. (I promise I'll make it worth the wait... there are at least three species I want to bring back to Skyhaven, either to the main lairs or to the Hunt, so when I do update it ought to be a biggie.) On the plus side, I'm tearing through my sketchbook doing preliminary work on my drum designs, since I like sketching out the images a few times before I attempt to paint them - fixing the forms in my mind, so to speak - so this can only mean good things when I sit down to do Skyhaven critter templates.
Another price has been my personal ornament work. Fortunately, I'm only sending a few out of the house this year, but I'm just now getting going on those. With timing and the nasty weather out thataways I'll be lucky if they get to their destination before the spring thaw even if I pull of a miracle and get them done by Monday. As for the stuff I won't be shipping, odds are I'll end up using drum ornament blanks for those, too. Which, of course, means all the painstaking scale drawings I worked on earlier this year are so much wasted paper. Oh, well...
And, of course, there was my card design. I wanted to do my own card design again this year, because it's been a few years since I even wanted to try doing a card design and, dang it, I wanted to do one. Unfortunately, my artistic muse took a bribe from the Dread Demon Reality and left me high and dry, after leaving just enough hints of ideas in my brain to keep me throwing myself against the brick wall of my sketchpad until now.
As a topper, my sinuses picked yesterday - the first day off I've ever taken at my job, and then only because they insisted I burn off the floating holiday I never used all year - to attack. I've always thought that human sinus cavities, prone to illness and infection and general misery-inducement as they are, provide the ultimate proof against our creation by some manner of benevolent entity (assuming, of course, that it intended humans to be its crowning achievement, rather than simply hosts for the microscopic lifeforms which truly thrive from such a lousy design)... But, I will not be deterred. It's actually a bit of a relief to be hitting panic stage at this point; last year, I finished two days early and nearly went berserk without family projects to keep me awake on Xmas Eve.
So, I suppose I'd best head off. It's too late to paint, but I have plenty of other projects to keep me occupied, and the Dread Demon Reality is going to have its hands full stopping me from finishing them all.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Operation Ornament Phase 1.99 - Almost There...

Because you saw the fronts last time... Yes, I have finished the first four ornaments of the year - and not just the first ones of the year. These are the first ones I have created with the express intent of (attempted) resale. I take them down to the store on Tuesday, and after that it's up to the general public whether or not I've created something worth spending hard-earned money on... Further photos will hide behind links, because I'm paranoid about load times and I'm sure you're sick of seeing them anyways...
I created these in Word (with the help of an oddball little program called Bookmarks Galore! 4 - a bit tricky to use, but it takes some of the guesswork out of cobbling together this kind of thing), and printed them on off-white cardstock from the craft store. Short, sweet, 'n simple...
I decided they didn't look "finished," so I added the two extra feathers in the middle of the drumstick. Made a big difference, I thought...
The feathers came from one of those mixed-feather bags at the craft store. I was trying to match them to the colors used on the drums themselves, with mixed results; several of them have iridescent sheens that aren't visible at all angles. But I did what I could with what I had, which is about all I can say for most everything I've ever accomplished (or failed to accomplish) in my life, I suppose.
It's hard to capture the color on this guy, especially given my nonexistent photography skills and lousy lighting...
Sorry, but I've run out of commentary on my images. Feel free to make up your own.
*sniff* They grow up so darned fast... These are laid out in the same order as the "back shots" above, so you can work out what goes with what on your own. Consider it a mental exercise.
So anyway, as of Tuesday these guys will be out of the house and I can focus on family ornaments from now on... unless, of course, they sell, in which case family stuff may be sidetracked while I whip up a second batch of drums. I'm trying to decide which would amuse the Dread Demon Reality more: another mad midnight dash on Xmas Eve to finish off family stuff because I've been too busy making and selling drums, or finding out that nobody wants to buy something I've made, so I've essentially wasted two months of my life planning and creating these guys. I'll find out soon enough, I suppose... for now, onward into Operation Ornament I charge.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Operation Ornament Phase 1.5ish

A quick 'n dirty shot of my progress thus far on Operation Ornament. Four of these are intended for resale; the cougar under the eagle is staying with me. (He looks somewhat cooler in person, and I wasn't sure I could replicate the effect anyway.) I'm taking a break while I decide what, if anything, else needs to be done aside from adding a hanger and printing out a quickie tag. (The usual info: Hand-painted item, Not A Toy, Do Not Force Feed To Children Under 3, etc.) Yes, it seems a bit skewed: two raptors and two big kitties. I tried a few others, but they fought me incessantly, so I gave up on them for now. If/when these prove salable, I'll take another swipe at 'em.
I have to get these suckers done and off the workbench ASAP because, come Thanksgiving, I'm breaking open the Paperclay and shifting focus to my usual round of family ornaments. Armatures are mostly bent already, and I'm thinking of using drum blanks for a couple anyway, so hopefully I'm not starting too late on those.
Wish me luck, if you're so inclined...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Operation Ornament Phase 1

Temporarily supplanting Operation Machete as my top priority, Operation Ornament concerns my plan to not only finish ornaments for the family before Xmas Eve, but to finish ornaments for potential resale as soon as inhumanly possible. So far, after testing numerous materials and designs, I finally have several double-sided drum blanks made up, as seen in the above photograph. That's canvas (grain not quite so obvious in Real Life), primed with textile medium, and bound with crochet thread over (painted) rounds cut from a 3" diameter shipping tube. No, it's not drum-tight, but it's not exactly loose, and I got more tension than I expected; cylinders are surprisingly sturdy, especially compared to one's fingers when one is pulling on crochet thread. Ouchie... but it's not a proper project if you aren't willing to bleed a bit, I suppose. Anyway, the test-image eagle is from a photo I snapped at a raptor demo during Salmon Days (a local fish-themed fall tourist magnet.) I'll be doing a bit of embellishment after painting, of course - I'll be adding a hanger, and probably some beads or a simple little cut-dowel drumstick and cheapy feathers. But my priority is getting the drum itself painted up; current plan calls for an animal image on one side and a matching footprint/feather/something on the other. I painted the eagle on a sacrificial blank to see how it would work, having never painted on canvas before. Nice eagle, huh? Get a load of that eagle. I hope people like eagles, because at the moment it seems to be the only thing I can paint with anything resembling competency or consistency.
Oh, I have other design templates. I grabbed some royalty-free images from the 'net, and I have some other photos. But for some reason I can't quite seem to pull them off. One drum blank already met with an unexplained accident after repeatedly resisting efforts to be transformed into something remotely ornamental. Fortunately, I have a fair number of blanks made up, and materials for even more. Unfortunately, time is not a friend to me here; I have to get something ready by mid-November at the latest if I'm to have any hope of selling it. So I've been taking some time off, playing with my grayscale pens in the hopes of fixing in my mind the process of buiding images with blocks of value/color, as opposed to the linework and details and cross-hatching and stuff which my pen-and-ink-skewed brain keeps steering me towards. Doesn't help that I have lousy lighting and little room to mix colors at the workbench, but you work with what you've got...

At least time's being a little less evil to me. I'm back to chapter 14 or so in the story - I was rereading some earlier stuff and determined that that's about when I lost the energy that, to me at least, was making the thing work - but I actually like what I've written aside from that and feel compelled to keep on going, which is good. (Still don't even have a working title, which probably isn't good, but I want to know how it ends before I label it.) I also, by virtue of ducking out of work an hour early (we were finished with work proper, but there was a surprise baby shower for a coworker I barely know the name of which most everyone was going to hang around for) and running off to Half Price Books, snagged a book I've been hunting for for well over a decade (The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson - under 8 bucks, too.) Hey, time's even giving an extra hour to play with this weekend.
I suppose I ought to take advantage of the time I've been given to get my lazy tail off the computer and back to work. Operation Machete can't go forward until Operation Ornament is complete (or reasonably close to completion), and Operations Budget, Clutter Cleanup, and Finish A Frellin' Story are waiting in the wings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Time Warped

According to my computer clock and calendar, it's Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 at 8:32 PM (Pacific Time) as I type this. It doesn't feel like Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 at 8:32 PM (Pacific Time), but the computer clock and calendar and newspapers all agree that that is, indeed, the time. Something's gone wrong with the space/time continuum, and I can't for the life of me figure out what.

What does it feel like? Well, aside from the impossibly surreal 2007 and it already being past mid-October, it doesn't even feel like a Wednesday, or 8:33 PM (time changed as I was typing). This whole week has felt "off" in some indefinably irritating way; everything is taking too long and being too aggravating and generally not going nearly as well as, by all rights, it should be. Right now, my internal clock is ready to swear by the nearest convenient god that it's about 10:15 PM on a Monday night, preferrably at the start of the month. I know it's a Wednesday, unfortunately, because I worked today, and I don't normally work on Mondays - work, like everything else I've done this week, felt overlong and subtly irritating for indiscernable reasons, thus proving irrefutably that it is, indeed, an event that occurred this week. Last week, by comparison, went unnaturally smooth, and even though I worked five days I got out early each day.

One of the things I find most aggravating about the warped time of the past week or so is that I can't even say I've accomplished nothing. Well, I've accomplished far less than I ought to - my latest Skyhaven expansions remain mere unsketched phantoms in my cerebral cortex - but I have made some measurable progress in other areas.

I hit Chapter 19 in my latest story - though by rights I should've hit the end and been back on revisions already.

I finally lost a belt-notch worth of girth since I started this job - but, that can't exactly be attributed to this week, even if it is a move in the right direction.

I'm down to my last page in my latest sketchbook - though I should've finished it in August at the rate I was going earlier this year.

I even got armatures bent for holiday ornaments... and my early start meant I could finally try my hand at another project I've been wanting to do for years but never had the time/ambition to try. Since my shipping ornament load dropped immensely this year (still shipping a few out, but mostly it's just cards), I'm trying my hand at making ornaments for resale... as in, resale in a shop, to strangers. Not the Paperclay sculptures, of course. Those are too labor-intensive and slow, not to mention my end results are still less consistent than I'd like them to be. But this year, when I was painting Grandpa's tamborine, a germ of an idea stuck in my mind. Painted drums... What if I could make little drum ornaments, fabric over cardboard instead of leather over wood, painted with "totem"-type animals or designs, for resale in the New Age store my mom works for? Her boss takes pretty much anything, from cards to medicine wheels, on commission, and drums are popular... so, if I could figure out a cost-effective means of making little drum ornaments, I might just finally hit Number 4 on the 2007 Resolution List. (Refresher: Resolution Number 4 is offering an item I have created for sale.)

This past week, I've been making up prototypes from materials gathered over the preceding few months, doing market research (read: asking Mom what the best-selling items in the store are so I can plan my designs accordingly), gathering royalty-free ref images from Corbis... and this, then, is where the time warp reveals itself. For, considering the fact that it only took me a few hours to paint a comparatively large (compared to these suckers) drum, and considering the fact that I should have any salable items - or at least the first wave of salable items - delivered for the store's consideration by the end of the month to catch the leading edge of holiday shoppers, I should've been done with prototypes and onto finished products two weeks or more ago. Even as I type this, as the mentally-refuted time of 8:49 PM (yeesh, it shouldn't have taken me this long to type this little - further evidence, if I needed it, of a flaw in the flow of time), I have parts drying in the basement for my third and final design prototype test. If prototype #3 works as planned, actual ornament production commences as early as tomorrow and as late as this weekend. If it doesn't work as planned... well, prototype #2 ought to do the job. And I've still kept my costs low enough to allow for a tolerable end-price, even after commission markup.

So, all in all, I can't say I've specifically wasted my time, though I clearly haven't been utilizing it to optimal advantage. I can't be wasting time and simultaneously accomplishing things, can I? So what's going on with the space/time continuum? Why is it behaving so erratically? And, most importantly, why is it messing up my week? I don't know... I just don't know. I wish I could find out, but I don't seem to have the time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Tarnished Silver Screen

The other day, I finally got my tail in gear and saw the fifth Harry Potter movie. I've heard less than enthusiastic reports about it - a co-worker actually branded it "bad" - but I figured that I was enough of a lemming to see it on the big screen, even after I'd had my doubts about the franchise after the butchered fourth movie. The effects, if nothing else, ought to be worth the matinee price, I figured. I mean, heck, these people brought us Buckbeak and the (inexplicably wyvernized) Hungarian Horntail, right? How bad could it be?

The answer: fairly bad. Even my sister, who hasn't read the books, could see the hatchet-marks mauling the storyline as the story lurched along. On top of it, and this may be a result of us seeing it after so much wear and tear, about half of the dialog was muddled to the point of incomprehensibility. Having read the final book, I have serious doubts about whether they can pull the franchise out of the fire sufficiently to do it any remote sense of justice; many of the plots and subplots that ultimately played into the last book's finest moments were either rewritten or completely absent. Some of the FX were up to par, but others felt rough. There were parts I liked, oddly enough the ones that put me in mind of Star Wars; the Big Battle at the end between Voldy and Dumbledore reminded me of the battle between Yoda and Palpatine, two undeniably powerful beings duking it out with undeniable power. (Actually, Harry could've saved himself a lot of grief in this movie if he'd ever sat down and watched Luke's adventures. I mean, haring off after a vision of friends in danger just screams "Plot To Capture Hero," you twerp! I didn't think it so much in the books, but the way it played on the big screen had me biting my tongue.) But on the whole I walked out disappointed. I've only actually seen two other movies that I walked out on feeling distinctly disappointed and regretful of my time wasted, that I recall. The first was Flirting With Disaster, a Ben Stiller "comedy" in which only the last 15 minutes elicited anything resembling a chuckle from me. The second was Shadow Of The Vampire, wherein we learned an important lesson: when the audience of the previous showing walks out of the theater in dead, morose silence, get your money back ASAP. (I also remember deeply regretting buying tickets for Scary Movie.) For the most part, I'm pretty easy to amuse. Or maybe I'm just overpicky in what I watch and thus risk disappointment less.

What has me rambling about movies right now, you may ask? A couple other blogs have posted "favorite film" threads, so I got to reminiscing about my own experiences with movies. While hard-pressed to actually name a favorite, for the sake of writing practice and filling space I thought I'd take a swing at it. So much depends on category and mood, though... hmm... Maybe I can do this by category.

Most Outstanding Overall Theatrical Experience: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, hands down. (The DVD extended editions are included here, too.) Peter Jackson did justice to a story that's dangedably hard to do justice to, and without boring me to tears (as, I'll admit, some passages of Tolkien's books came close to doing.) Beautiful FX, costuming, creature design, casting, and soundtrack to boot. (Runner-up: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Not a huge fan of Christian fantasy, especially Message-laden fantasy, but the overall ambience was essentially a LotR-worthy treatment of Narnia, without actually trying to be LotR, with spot-on casting and FX to boot. I'm morbidly curious to see how the makers will pull off the last book - wherein the dark-skinned desert-dwelling Arab stand-ins are revealed to actually have been worshipping an evil god all along, while the white Christianesque Narnians were proven Righteous - without being slaughtered, but overall I look forward to how they handle the rest of the series.)

Movie I Most Wished I'd Seen On The Big Screen But Didn't: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The preview had me clawing my eyes out at the oversaturated, slightly out-of-focus FX work, but it must've been a trick of the lens, because the DVD was crisp and smooth and absolutely mesmerising.

Best Pick-Me-Up Movie: The Sound of Music. I should find this the dippiest thing in the world, but, dang it, it's beautifully filmed and catchy! (Runners-Up: The Emperor's New Groove and Hoodwinked!, both of which have a wild, zany energy to them that can't fail to have one grinning inside of ten minutes.)

Most Overlooked Film Due To Lousy Advertising: Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. This live-action adaptation, starring Jason Scott Lee as the boy raised by animals in the Indian jungle, was a well thought-out and intriguing action movie, which took certain liberties but was thorougly enjoyable. All the ads, however, linked it to the dreadfully one-dimensional Disney "classic" animated version. (Runner-Up: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. All the ads I ever saw of it featured a kid with his mouth full relating pointless parts of the movie, as kids are wont to do. Every girl, young or old, who ever had a horse collection should've been glued to the theater seats... as should every boy who liked horses, too, but didn't have the guts to collect them.) (Also-Ran - Lace Placid. This was billed as a horror film, and reviewed by and large as though it were supposed to be a horror film, but was actually a straight-faced parody that's kinda funny.)

Best Sci-Fi Saga: Star Wars, episodes IV-VI (special editions) and III. Yes, I actually liked what Lucas did in the Special Editions of the original trilogy. And I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith. Like it or not, Lucas and his "paint in the corners" style of over-the-top space opera set a standard which hundreds, nay, thousands have tried to reach but none have succeeded.

Best Adaptation of a Lousy Book: Tie: Flight of Dragons and The Iron Giant. FoD was an '80's-era animated movie based on two books: The Flight of Dragons by Peter Dickinson (which I've yet to read), a theoretical look at how a dragonlike creature might possibly exis, and The Dragon and The George, the tale of a man trapped in a dragon's body which gave the movie its character names and it's overall plot guts (in the American version, at least - the original European version was by all accounts a different movie, focusing more on the dragons' lives.) DatG was a dull, boring book with cruddy characters and a lame sequel-setup at the end. The movie, however, is still a nostaligic favorite, and I only wish it would come out on DVD as my VHS copy is dying. (I also want to see the European version, even if it is gorier.) The dragons are also great, and provided the first impetus to my own efforts to draw them.
The Iron Giant, an animated movie completely plowed under at theaters, is a great, nuanced movie about a giant robot who falls to Earth and lands in New England shortly after Sputnik's launch, as paranoia and Cold War mentalities are really heating up. The book it was based on, by Ted Hughes, is so bad that I'd never have seen the movie had I read the story first; thankfully, only the robot and the boy who finds him survived the translation from page to screen.

Favorite Animated Movie: Overall, I'd have to say The Lion King for the balance of great lion animation and excellent soundtrack, but I'm a sucker for animation so many movies vie for the title. I'm also probably alone in the planet in actually liking Brother Bear - it had a good heart in it. I also highly enjoyed Spirited Away, Tarzan, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. And Shrek 1 & 2.

Funniest Film: Again, this is a toughie, and varies by mood. On the list, however, would have to be: GalaxyQuest (no self-respecting fan can watch this and not laugh themselves into a coma); Clue (the best comic/soundtrack timing of any movie ever); South Park (crude as all get-out, but man, I howled!); Monty Python and the Holy Grail (can't skip the classics...); High Anxiety (Mel Brooks' take on Hitchcock); Murder By Death (hilarious parody of literature's "greatest" detectives solving a murder at an isolated mansion); A Mighty Wind/Best In Show ("mocumentaries" of folk music and dog shows respectively); Batman: The Movie (because the campy '60's series/movie just has too much fun with itself not to laugh along); The Princess Bride (much easier to follow when you read the frellin' book); Spaceship (an obscure and hilarous sci-fi parody that's almost impossible to get hold of now; the alien's song and dance number, featuring the voice of Richard Chamberlain and the lyrics "I Want To Eat Your Face", must be seen to be believed); and others I can't think of or list right now because I have a cat demanding attention. (Almost forgot Airplane, and Airplane II's actually pretty funny.)

Favorite Nostalgia Movie: Labyrinth. It was fun as a kid, and dang it, it's still fun now. I even bought the soundtrack... and not back when I first saw it, just less than a year ago. (Runners-Up: Ladyhawke; Clash of the Titans; Jason and the Argonauts; The Journey of Natty Gann; Journey to the Center of the Earth (the original with Pat Boone, not the cruddy remake); Forbidden Planet (Dad's favorite sci-fi movie, which I've probably seen 20+ times).)

Favorite Nostalgia Movie That Didn't Hold Up: Tie: The Dark Crystal (beautiful visuals and a nice underlying world, but as a kid I didn't realize how dull and obvious the plot was - I hope the in-the-works sequel does better) and The Neverending Story (parts will still make me cry - Artax and the last speech of the lonely Rock-Biter - but overall it lost a lot of its luster as I grew up. And the second movie sucked so bad that I never did, nor do I want to, watch the third.) (Runner-Up: The Aristocats. When I was a young'un, we had "marble movies" at school every so often in the gym, and Disney actually let schools show their movies without throwing an absolute hissyfit. This was how I saw - numerous times - the original Freaky Friday, Condorman, The Boatniks, and The Aristocats - which, being a cat fan and a lover of animation as far back as my feeble memory extends, became my fave of the bunch. Recent animated movies have spoiled me, though, and it just didn't hold up as well when I finally got a chance to see it again on DVD.)

Favorite CGI-Created Creature from the Movies: Tie: Draco the Dragon (from Dragonheart - after him, there's never been an excuse for a two-legged Western dragon aside from sheer laziness) and Buckbeak the Hippogriff (from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)

Favorite Bad Movie: Planet of the Dinosaurs. Man, I wish MST3K had gotten hold of this one... It has it all: crappy actors, hilariously dumb dialog, the plot that you could almost see making a better movie if it hadn't been so dreadfully botched, and laughable action/FX sequences - though actually, for the time, the dinosaurs themselves aren't that bad... just when they interact with other beings or appear against a background of any kind. It also features the most ineffectual stockade ever constructed in a B-movie.

I'm sure I'm overlooking a lot, but that's all I can come up with for now, and it's a work night so I can't fret overlong about it just now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Confessions of a Book-Buying Library Page

Today, I did something evil and, some would argue, entirely unnecessary. I paid good hard-earned money for three books. Why is this evil and arguably unnecessary? It's evil because, by all rights, with nothing but a three-day-a-week job at my age I shouldn't be blowing money on anything but food, gas, and the cats. It's arguably unnecessary because I earned the money to pay for those books by working for the local library system. Two, if not all three, of these books are readily available through the library. I know because I've handled them myself at work. And yet, there I was, standing at line in Barnes & Noble with my books in one hand, my B&N Membership 10%-discount card in the other hand, and the coupon I received via e-mail for an extra 15% off one item in the other other hand. (Okay, okay - I had the coupon in the same hand that I had the books in, and I didn't actually take the card out until I reached the counter. Happy, you anatomy nitpickers?)

About a month ago, I was even worse. In one day, between two bookstores, I blew over 70 bucks on books. Okay, so one of them wasn't for me, and in my defense I hadn't been book-buying for some time so I went a bit wild, but still... 70 bucks. And neither bookstore was a Barnes & Noble, so I had no discount card or coupon to blame it on. All of that money came from the coffers of the library, and most of the books purchased (if not all of them) are in storage or circulation as I type.

It's not that I don't have books here to read. At last count, I had... hmm... at a low estimate, 15 books on topics from human anatomy to fantasy eagerly awaiting their turn in my ink stained hands. They're piled on shelves. They're stuffed in boxes. They're stacked on tables. And not a single, solitary one has come from the library. In fact, since the day I hired on, I haven't pulled a single, solitary item to be checked out yet. We can, of course. If there's no hold slip on it, and if the Great Machine hasn't scanned it into its massive memory works, we're allowed to pull most anything to check out. And it's not a poorly-stocked library system, by any means. We're second in the nation for circulation, after all. Nor is it a matter of lack of access. That money could still be in my bank account, and I could still be reading plenty of great, great stories. For some reason, though, when I get to work, and those books are going through my hands, so many books my hands are almost black by break time, I'm not thinking of potential reading material.

I think it may be that I've trained myself not to read in public. I'll read magazines, maybe, or newspaper articles, or in an emergency a road sign or two. But experience has taught me that reading - real reading, the kind where you lose yourself among the words and soar freely through a story - and company do not mix. I get nastily single-minded about reading. The disconnect from reality that others may achieve through alcohol or drugs is what I get from a good story. Try to engage me in conversation while I'm holding a book, and you're liable to get your head torn off. I don't take crash-landings back in my miserable little reality kindly. I see other people at work pausing to read cover blurbs and even a few pages in books, and I wonder how it would go over if I tried to do that... then I have a mental image of me verbally decapitating a co-worker or a boss, and I remember how terribly discouraging and frustrating job hunting is, and I put my mental nose back to the grindstone and start slinging books again. Every so often I've picked out a title and author that sounds intriguing, but always, instead of taking the book itself home, I hit Amazon or B&N.Com for book reviews and maybe a used copy.

There's also a corner of my mind that rebels at being held to another's timetable. I don't want to be forced into a story, nor do I want to be forced into finishing it by a given date. Sure, when I get going I can polish off a novel in a day or a weekend, but speed isn't always the point of reading. Sometimes I'm just not in a mood to rush a book, and sometimes a book's just not want I want to read at the time. Some of the books in my backlog have been gathering dust for a few years, and then someday something clicks in my mind and it finally gets a chance to tell me its story.

Terrible as it seems, one of the chief excuses I have for not taking advantage of library material is my reading backlog. When it drops below double digits, I tell myself, I'll grab a book or DVD off the line. I even vaguely form mental lists of what I'll look for first. Then I go out and buy a few more books, knowing full well it could be weeks or months or maybe a year before I actually read them.

I know it's illogical. I know I ought to be stashing away all this book money for better uses - dental check-ups, eye exams, car repairs, investments, rebuilding my Life Or Death Fund. Yet even though I work for a library, even though I've had more free reading material go through my hands in the past eight or so months than I could possibly count, there's just something about walking out of a bookstore with a bag full of stories that still gets my heart racing. And sad as it is, I know I'll be right back at Barnes & Noble in barely a week's time. The fourth book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series is due out then - two days after my coupon would've expired - and while I'm sure, the day after, I'll be slinging a box or two full of brand-new library copies of it onto the belt at work, I still can't wait to walk out of the store with my own copy... and, most likely, a few other books for company.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Visiting Diablo

Hope this shows up... this is where I spent Saturday, up at Diablo Lake above the Diablo Dam. Where is that? Round about here... Usually, the lake tours are booked up months in advance, but we ("we" being Mom, Dad, Granpa, and I) had a chance to go when some friends of my aunt had to cancel their plans. It's a long, long drive to the North Cascades Highway to Newhalem (where the tour starts) and back... long and tiring, but worth every mile. I'll post Photobucket picture links, so you don't have to wait forever for this page to load. As the above example indicates, it's tough to take an ugly picture in the High Cascades, especially on Diablo Lake. Nevertheless, I succeeded...

Old Number 6
One of the first things to greet you at the visitor center is Old Number 6, the original train that, in its day, made the trip up to the dam construction sites several times a day for over a decade. It's currently under renovations, as one might surmise by the fence... and the primer.

The Skagit General Store
The original Seattle Light company store still operates today, providing tourists and locals alike with junk food, tourist items, and other essentials. And fudge. They have some nice fudge in many flavors.

Towers of Power
And why did they build so far up in the hills? Why, to take advantage of alien technology left by a UFO crash, as witnessed here. This gazebo claims to use obsolete parts from the power stations, but no sci-fi buff will be fooled.

Trail of Cedars
The Trail of Cedars is a 1-mile loop across the Skagit River. It goes by, oddly enough, lots of cedars... or Western red cedars, I expect, as we don't have true cedars in this part of the country. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to explore because we had to wait for the tour, and by the time we got back Grandpa was ready to go home.

The Bridge of Cedars
Yes, just across this suspension bridge lies the elusive Trail of Cedars. This long suspension bridge... this long suspension bridge that bounces every time you take a step. (Actually, it wasn't nearly as bad as another area suspension bridge, over the Tolt river...)

The Skagit River itself
No, I have not manipulated the water color. Due to deposits of gniess (a rock related to granite), the waters of the Skagit run nearly opaque bluish-green.

You Are Here
Yes, I know you were dying for a map of the Skagit River. And, yes, we're that close to the Canadian border at this point. I suppose technically these are partially Canadian waters... some of the water comes from glaciers north of the border. Note Newhalem, which is actually where I was at that very moment.
(Side Note: The town of Concrete actually was the source of the concrete used in dam construction up the Skagit River. Railroad cars full of slow-drying slurry were brought up by incline railway from here. So it's not just another pointlessly-named small town.)

Diablo Lake and the Diablo Dam from the Alice Ross III
I really, really wish the tour bus from the visitor center had stopped now and again, but you probably don't - I missed a zillion chances to ruin the beauty of the North Cascades at scenic overlooks. But, anyway, a vaguely informative bus ride took us to our destination: Diablo Lake, above the Diablo Dam, and the Alice Ross III - which we had to drive across the dam to reach. The ship actually had to be cut in half - top and bottom - to fit through the tunnels on the North Cascades Highway. Fortunately, it had been reassembled by the time we got to it. We'll get back to the dam in a bit... for now, we're off on the lake.
(Little tip if you ever do get up to Diablo Lake - wear a hat with a firm chinstrap or none at all. There's wind up there. A lot of wind, especially down on the open part of the lake. And it eats hats. Fortunately, we all had strapped-on hats, but one tourist wasn't so lucky. The tour guides said that it had a lot of company in the lake...)

Snow in Summer
How high are we? Well, it's late August, and that's snow, so I'd say pretty high...

Sourdough Mountain
The peaks around here had a number of colorful names: Colonial Peak, Sourdough Mountain, Pyramid Peak, Paul Bunyan Peak... unfortunately, I couldn't pick out which was which from the boat narrative, but this one I did ID. I think. Anyways, it's a pretty mountain which I don't remotely do justice to. But, then, I didn't see a single ugly mountain in my trip.

Up the Gorge
The lake narrows as you head up to the highest (last) dam in the Seattle Light network, Ross Dam. This picture is actually from the return trip, but it shows how narrow it gets.

Cliffs and More Cliffs
Because there are a lot of sheer cliffs along the way...

Ross Dam
End of the line for this lake, beginning of the next one... The pattern on the dam was intended to help adhere subsequent layers of concrete. At one time, plans called for another hundred-odd feet to be added, but that would've flooded more American and Canadian land, and in the 1960's they finally started figuring out that there was value in wilderness areas. As it is, Ross Lake already pokes beyond the border, and is evidently quite a sight.

Monkey and Deer Islands
From the return trip, though we saw them on the way up. Deer Island, the bigger one on the right, was named because local deer used to swim out there to give birth to their fawns, who would return to the mainland after some predator-free growing time. (I don't know if they do this anymore, though it is still a fairly remote area - there are even two boat-in-only camping places with not even a foot trail connecting them to the outside world.) Monkey Island, the little guy on the left, was so named because one of the great minds behind the project, Mr. Ross himself, would have monkeys shipped up from Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in the summer and placed on the island for the tourists to oooh and aahh over; the zookeeper would then have to round them all up and take them to mainland sleeping facilities, to be rereleased the next day until the end of the season.

Navigation Light
A little lighthouse to help ships navigate the rocky waters of the lake in all weathers. There are actually trees down under the water still, from the valley's flooding; one enterprising dam worker tried to harvest the salable lumber, presumably with home-rigged equipment, and paid for his greed with his life. Since he was the only recorded death on the Diablo Dam project, he got a plaque on the dam to immortalize his capitalistic stupidity.

Diablo Dam Revisited
After the boat ride, we headed back across Diablo Dam... on foot. Yes, we had the option of crossing Diablo Dam on foot for the return trip. Grandpa opted out, as did Dad, but my aunt, my mother, and myself figured we'd regret it if we didn't try.

Crossing Diablo
A-walking we go. It's windy - very windy. The tour guide demonstrated the futility of spitting off the downward side of the dam by upending a full bottle of water over the edge; not a single drop of it fell more than a few inches before blasting back up and over the road and whoever was unlucky enough to be standing across the way. (Unfortunately, she waited until after we'd crossed to give us this little tidbit of info; her main emphasis on the way there was the three rules of dam-walking: Don't lean over, don't lean over, and don't lean over.)

The Drop
Boy, that's a long way down... consider that the water is roughly 350 feet deep on the lake side of the dam, and you get an idea of the dropoff on the spillway side. It's a looong way down... and you didn't have to tell me twice not to lean.

The Spillway
The spillway on the far side.

In the Gorge
Some nice rocks down there...

Waterfall below Diablo
Makes you wonder what it looks like when the spillways are going...

Another Gorge-ous Shot
Yes, I had to... Fortunately, that's the last of them.

I have many, many more pictures, and many, many, many more that I'd wished I'd taken, but I think you've suffered enough for now. Anyway, it was a long day, and a tiring drive, but I'm happy I had the chance to go.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Operation Machete - Phase 2 Complete

For all none of you who care, Phase 2 of my site overhaul officially hit the Internet today. The Skyhaven Hunt, down since March (as part of Operation Machete Phase 1), has returned. It was supposed to be back in May... which became June... then July... but finally, in August, I managed to scrape together a redesigned Hunt. It shouldn't take more than half an hour to get through, all told, but I have Big Plans for the Future. As usual.

The debut of the Hunt is one more checkmark on my list from January (the twelve things I wanted to accomplish this year), and most of the way to a second one (one more new Skyhaven critter to go on #10.) Unfortunately, it's about the only progress I can report on the list since February, and I've pretty much blown any chance of accomplishing two of them. As usual, I represent my own biggest obstacle to achieving anything.

So, I've revamped Skyhaven Adoptions and the Skyhaven Hunt. Is this the end of Operation Machete? No - unfortunately for you, it's not. I still have to start work on Phase 3: the reintroduction of the jewelwings. Considering how devious I like to be in hiding them, it constitutes a phase all on its own. Hopefully by 2008 I'll be done with that part... just in time to consider revamping again.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The I-Haven't-Blogged-In-Nearly-A-Month Blog Entry

Well, July's sliding down the drain faster than a greased racing snail, and I have little enough to show for it. So why not procrastinate a little longer and post a blog entry?

I went into July bound and determined to get Skyhaven improvements ready, make significant progress on at least one story, sketch at least a page a day, get holiday ornaments designs laid out, and read the final Harry Potter book. Let's see how I'm doing...

Skyhaven fans, take heart in the knowledge that I'm currently assembling the New and Improved Skyhaven Hunt (v3.0), with one brand-new Hunt-exclusive species scanned, cleaned, and ready to debut... in August. I mean it this time. It may not be the beginning of August, but it will be in August. I'm taking a less random approach to the Hunt this time... less wandering around aimlessly stumbling across puzzles or mazes of random difficulty levels, more focused areas (which will still have the potential to hold random things to stumble across.) Thus far, it looks to be a bit more graphic intense, but I expect more text-based, in-depth material once I get things back online. In addition, I have a new species ready to go for the main Skyhaven site. So keep an eye out in August to see what I've been up to!

My main story has languished - I'm thinking at this point I either need to strip the thing back down to the original core idea or work a lot harder on hammering out a strong outline, because it seems to be drifting through too many sideplots and peripheral characters - but I have a new one that's going fairly strong. If/when I need beta readers for that, I'll let people know. It's fantasy, of course, currently with more of a teen/young adult angle, and it's based on a dream so it's kinda weird... like I ever write anything normal... Anyway, so far I'm still feeling my way through a first draft and seeing where it goes, which is fun and a welcome break from slogging through revisions. (This mentality, of course, is perhaps the main reason why I've never had anything published. What can I say? I'm my own worst enemy. I've lived vicariously through enough fantasy and sci-fi characters to be thankful that my worst enemy is just as lazy and useless as myself, and not endowed with galaxy-rending ruthlessness and terrifying physical, mental, or magical reserves that test my own to the core.)

Sketching... well, I've done some sketching, but it's been closer to a page a week. Unfortunately, I can't sketch much in my room because the cats seem to think that it's an invitation to their favorite game, Grab The Pen. (This often leads to other feline favorites such as Climb Into The Occupied Lap, Sleep On The Sketchbook, and Get Between The Human And Whatever She's Doing.) This leaves the living room and the backyard as my sketching options, both of which are chock full of distractions that keep ink from meeting paper in any meaningful manner.

Last year's inadvertent head start of having several ornament armatures ready to go led me to try a similar approach (though not so drastic) this year. Thus far, I'm having my usual level of success, though I've narrowed down final designs in my head. The possibility of doing ornaments for work (I have no idea what library policy is on holiday decoration, but if there's a chance to foist ornaments onto more unsuspecting strangers I'm up for it) has already increased the impending workload, so I'd best shake a leg... though I'd get more done if I sat down, dusted off my workbench, and got started.

And what about the last Harry Potter adventure? I can proudly say that I have indeed accomplished this. Not only that, but I've already updated Brightdreamer Books (check Brightdreamer.com in my Links for the link) with my spoiler-free review. A most satisfactory conclusion to a most enjoyable series. I've heard rumors that J.K. Rowling is writing an encyclopedia of Harry's world, which is supposed to tie up some of the peripheral characters' stories in a way that she couldn't manage to do in the book itself. Beyond that, I look forward to her future writing endeavors, whatever they may be. (I have a very hard time believing she can quit writing cold turkey, even if the odds of another Harry Potter-scale phenomenon are astronomical. It's not about the sales, it's about the creation... though sales certainly must be a nice bonus, especially sales like hers.)

So, as the clock ticks down toward August and the year, having passed the midpoint, builds momentum as it rolls toward its conclusion, I find myself in my usual position: a thousand things left to do, and all manner of reasons why they're not done. Not so different from last year, but, hey, at least I have a job now. That's something...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Blog Entry Without A Title

Hmm... can't seem to get a Title line cursor to take... maybe when I edit. (EDIT - Now it's taking. Go figure...)

Okay, I suppose I ought to take a swipe at the meme I was tagged for. I can't think of eight things worth mentioning that others don't know about me (that I'm willing to admit to in public), so this may be a bit lame... oh, why kid you? It's going to be very lame.

Eight Things I'm Not Sure People Know About Me

1 - Between my speech issues and chronic shyness (due in no small part to the fact that people couldn't understand what I was saying, so why bother talking), I was mistaken on more than one occassion for a special ed student. The fact that they'd only send the "short" bus out on my route for high school can't have helped.

2 - I had few friends going into high school. By the end, they no longer were friends, and I never bothered making new ones.

3 - As the only person without glasses in my family, I often wished I had them... which happened round about sixth grade. (Hey, I'm an idiot... what can I say?)

4 - I have never had a boyfriend, discounting friends who happened to be boys.

5 - I am about to drop-kick a cat across the room if he doesn't stop pawing at the cat door for no earthly reason.

6 - I once dreamed of being a part-time cat trainer, and even came up with a "feline versatility" sport which bore an uncanny resemblance to the recent wave of feline agility expos turning up at cat shows. (You know that whole "clicker training" movement dog people latched onto a few years back? I read about it in eighth grade, in a book on training cats which I cannot for the life of me locate - the guy trained animals for movies, and clickers were used because they were easy to edit out of soundtracks.)

7 - Speaking of dream careers, I never had one. Every thing I wanted to do - writer, artist, cat trainer, animator, etc. - was always "part time" in addition to whatever I "really" wanted to do. Either I was hedging my bets or I was an uncommitted lazy lump a lot longer than most people. (Later on, I never committed to one because I saw what jobs did to people - my aunt and uncle were both zombies for much of my childhood due to being overworked - and lived in fear of that happening to me, especially with something I liked. I still am afraid of it, to be perfectly honest...)

8 - I spent the majority of my creative time pacing aimlessly; my brain generates more ideas when I'm moving, though it kicks off the moment I sit down to implement any ideas it comes up with.

And a bonus 9 - The cat has stopped pawing at the door, so he will live. ;-)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tech Support Tag - Week 3

So it's been three weeks since I first had problems with my website. I still cannot publish to the /dreamspire subdomain. I still cannot get any help from tech support. So I'm on to Plan B: creating a new (third) subdomain. If this screws up my existing /skyhunt subdomain (working fine, but possibly at the cost of the /dreamspire subdomain), then I'll know it's a problem with IPowerWeb and can start yelling at them again via a brand-new help ticket. Usually IPowerWeb's not this clueless, but I've run out of ways to explain the problem and they don't appear to be listening anymore. As far as they're concerned, resetting my passwords fixed everything. (My personal favorite suggestion is their insistence that I add an index.htm page to the subdomain that I cannot update. How am I supposed to add it, by carrier pigeon? Yeesh...)

What does it mean to you, the average websurfer who may or may not visit my sites? Well, for one thing, it means I may have a temporary interruption in service before Monday (that being the tail end of the 24-48 hour window they give for setting up a subdomain.) It also means that the Skyhaven Hunt return (on its brand-new subdomain) has been pushed back to August; I did not anticipate having to spend three weeks wrestling with a balking site host, so my progress has ground to a complete halt until I can get everything up and running properly. On the plus side, this is giving me a bit more thinking time to hammer out exactly what I'm doing and where I'm going with the revamp.

Anyway, I thought I'd let all none of you who were wondering what's up with the site and the delayed Hunt return. (And, yeah, I know I was tagged for a meme... I'll get to it in a bit, after I've sorted out my site.)

UPDATE - It's Monday afternoon. Operation Subdomain has proven a complete success! I can update to the new address, and I can still update to everything else! I have transferred my links to Brightdreamer Books & More to the new subdomain, and later I will be attempting to delete the old /dreamspire subdomain.
I suppose I have no more excuses to put off Skyhaven Hunt work, now, do I?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tech Support Tag - Week 2

For two weeks and more
You have failed, you have failed.
For two weeks and more
You have failed me!

For so long you've been true,
But now nothing that you do
Can make my problem up and go away.

For your tech support
I have begged, I have begged.
For your tech support
I have begged you!

I've complied with your demands,
Yet you will not understand
That it just don't make my problem go away.

Grumble, mutter, snarl... I've had nothing but good luck with my site host for years. Whenever there's been a problem, a quick missive to tech support got things straightened out within a message or two. Now, they did restore my site when they figured out it was on their end, but that's when the annoying User Name/Password loop set in. I couldn't publish to my subdomain (Brightdreamer Books) without being locked into entering my User Name and Password time after time after time... and it never did take. I just sent my fifth e-mail informing them that I cannot publish to one of my subdomains, and that, once again, their suggestion failed to fix this lingering problem. It's on their end. It has to be on their end. Nothing in FrontPage 2000 has any capacity to screw up a user name/password authentication on their server, especially since it works not only for my main site, but for my new subdomain. Besides, it was their glitch on their end which had the whole site shut down to begin with, so logic tells me that perhaps it's yet another glitch on their end which suddenly doesn't allow me to publish a subdomain which I have been able to publish successfully for well over a year.

The last e-mail from their support had a slightly snippy tone to it, so I finally had it. I spent this morning doing screen captures of every step in the process of my attempt to comply with their demands, the disastrous results (the main site was overwritten and the index page screwed up - this is why I've never had an index.htm problem on my subdomains, folks, and I never had a publishing problem until now!!!), how I fixed it, and how I still cannot publish my subdomain. I even went into Paint Shop Pro and added helpful circles and lines, and in my e-mail I annotated each image. I'm pretty sure they hate me by now, but they're just not listening to the problem and I'm getting very, very angry. So Brightdreamer Books languishes as the book review backlog creeps ever closer to 20 (I think I just hit 16 with the latest addition.) It's the only site I have with a potential for revenue, and while it hasn't exactly been a gold mine (or a silver mine... heck, even a coal mine), I rather liked the possibility of a little extra income now and again. This whole problem is, in a word, ridiculous. Actually, it's absolutely frellin' inexcusably ridiculous, but that's four words and I promised one. If this doesn't clear up soon I'll have to find another site host; I should not have to pay for a second domain name/server just to publish one third of my site. If this means teaching myself Dreamweaver so I'm not limited by FrontPage compatibility, so be it. I've just about had it.

I think I'll grab a cup of cocoa and and find something mindless and vaguely aggressive to do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If You're Looking For Skyhaven...

Okay, just a quick little post here to say that I know my domain (Brightdreamer.com, home of Skyhaven Adoptions and my book review site that I don't think anyone even knows about) is having "issues" at the moment, as in it's been essentially inaccessible since Friday night. I'll be throwing together a quick update as soon as possible to see if that helps; if not, I'll be trying to contact tech support to see what's up. Just so you know, the Skyhaven Hunt will NOT be returning in this update - I am simply trying to get my sites back up and running. Work on the Hunt has begun, though, so don't fear, but this problem will be delaying the process. (By an odd coincidence, it was the night that I requested the subdomain for the Hunt - so it'll be easier to manage via FrontPage on my end without poking through the rest of Skyhaven - that my sites went down. I sincerely hope the two aren't connected...)

Anyway, if you need to contact me, leave me a message via Comments here.

UPDATE - It's Saturday night. Tech Support got back to me (yes, on a Saturday) to say that the problem was indeed on their end and it should be fixed within 24 hours. I'll probably be too busy tomorrow (Father's Day stuff and all), but I'll try posting Monday.

UPDATE UPDATE - So close, yet so far away... I finally got my main site (Skyhaven) back and updated, but I get stuck in a weird loop whenever I try updating to the subwebs (Brightdreamer Books and the new Skyhaven Hunt subweb.) I'll give them another day to work it out... maybe it's a last glitch. But at least the site's back up now. That's something.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Joy of Creating

A few months ago, my grandfather asked me to paint an eagle on a cheap tamborine he picked up at the second-hand store. I kept meaning to start it, but first I had to get the right paints... then I had to track down a good reference... then I had to read up on color theory... then (fill in the vaguely art-related excuse for not sitting down, shutting up, and doing it.) The past few weeks, Grandpa hasn't been quite himself all the time. He is, after all, 88, but he's been fairly sharp and active, until a recent fall let his age start catching up with him. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I'd never forgive myself if I didn't finish the eagle drum before he went away, be it to the grave or the shadowy mists of his own mind. So, yesterday, I dusted off my workbench, dug out my paints, printed out a royalty-free ref image from Corbis, and started painting. In the space of a few hours, I did what I hadn't done in months and months: finished something. The above picture, scanned in with my recently-reconnected scanner, is the result. Considering that it's been years since I even attempted remotely realistic acrylic painting on any surface, I'm fairly pleased with how it came out.
As I sat there at my workbench, carefully picking and mixing colors, listening to the ambient noise of the local classical station in my headphones, I realized how much I missed the simple act of creating something. I looked around the workbench at all the things I've accumulated for "someday" projects: the pyrography equipment, the wire and foil and accessories for polymer/Paperclay sculptures, the brushes and paints, the pens and pencils. Is it really so difficult, I asked myself, to find an hour - or even half an hour - every day or so to come down here and Do Something? Is it any more difficult to find the same time to Do Something on my computer, to dust off the tablet for Paint Shop Pro, work on site expansions in FrontPage, or write a few pages in Word? I've been going through Bryce 5.5 slowly, with the help of a great online tutorial link I found after I broke down and registered for the official Bryce forum, but mostly I've been poking around, memorizing controls and staring at pretty buttons or presets.
I also recently got the go-ahead to start the logo for one of the day camps I design annual logos for. (The other one just got their committee together and hasn't decided on a theme; the camp's in early July, and this is May.) Though they have a fairly specific idea of what they want, and it will therefore take minimal efforts on my part to come up with the design (one of my usual hang-ups), I still find myself holding back. Last year, I had the logo for this camp pretty much done by this time. This year, I haven't even started any serious sketches. There are reasons, of course - there always are. Last year I didn't have a job. Last year I wasn't breaking in a new computer. Last year I had a bit more lead time. Last year the sky was a quarter of a shade more blue. I know the bottom line, of course: I'm still afraid to screw up, so I just avoid starting things. And every day I avoid starting it is one less day to get it done.
Time isn't just getting away from Grandpa. It's getting away from everyone, every day, whether we use it or not. I need to stop thinking in terms of whether the end result will be worth the time and effort. I need to remember what it's all really about: the joy of creation. And I need to start now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wasting Time Faster Than Ever Before

Oooohh, this is a nice machine...

Granted, I'm coming to the duo-core world off a Pentium III 800, but still... this is a nice machine. It boots in half the time (or less) as my old computer. It loads and runs like a dream. A good dream, I mean, not the bad kind... or even the surreal, nonlinear normal kind. It even looks cool - the case is black, with a flip-up panel on front for USB ports (I have 4 in the back, but it's nice to have 2 in the front for things I don't need plugged in all the time, like my camera) and little blue lights that flash when the hard drive's thinking. So far, I've been busily recluttering the empty hard drive with old vices and new ones. A few stand out in the crowd thus far, and I haven't finished loading junk yet...

First up, of course, is Bryce 5.5. I had hoped (rather naively, I know) for a relatively easy transition from Paint Shop Pro-type 2D graphics programs to the 3D world. I'd tinkered with the free program Terragen, a terrain rendering program capable of great things but which I usually just poked around at until I got something I thought looked cool (for me, that bar's rather low.) Lots of strange little panels that made no sense to me, but if I punched enough buttons and tweaked enough settings I could come up with something cool, if utterly random so far as I was concerned. As one might expect, real 3D isn't exactly that easy. Unfortunately, several online searches have turned up no supplemental documentation for Bryce 5.5, not even a stray tutorial page. The official site's moved on to Bryce 6, and most forums seem to linger on Bryce 5 (I read enough to know that there are apparently significant differences between 5 and 5.5, thanks to a post by one poor person who was told, most unhelpfully, that they should learn to use it on their own and write their own tutorials, ha ha)... on a level far above my newbie head. I found one Bryce 5 book on Amazon, but 9 out of 10 reviews were one star or less. I skimmed them hoping to find a better recommendation, but I found none. It seems that nobody wants to write about the program, even though I've heard about it before and was given to understand that Bryce was a relatively big player in the 3D graphics world. Fortunately, it came with a PDF manual. A big manual. A 500+-page manual where the table of contents alone spans 20 pages, outlining the contents of over 100 chapters. So, I've made it my personal mission to get through that thing and teach myself at least how to get by in Bryce 5.5, if only to hack off the kinds of people who post on 3D graphics message boards and berate newcomers with nonadvice and scorn. My goal is at least one chapter every two days, but that may slow down if/when I reach the point where I can actually start creating things on my own.

Another unexpected addiction came in the form of a cheap jewel-case game from the office store. Now, it's not entirely my fault. My sister and I found a jewel-case copy of a game my mother had once had and lost, and the display said that if we bought two other games we'd get the third three. Considering how Mom has a way of backhanding us (not literally) for attempts to do nice things (case in point: the reason she lost the game, she'll tell anyone who will listen, is that we evilly replaced her dying, crash-prone computer with my sister's older-but-still-newer-and-faster-and-far-more-reliable computer, which was built for gaming and runs beautifully but which she'll never forgive us for giving her), we didn't want to spend a dime more than we had to. So, you see, I had to buy a couple cheap games... One of them was Heroes of Might and Magic IV. I'd heard the name, and it looked fun in a timekilling sort of way. It turns out to be a remarkably complex and addictive game, a cross between the kingdom sim Majesty and RPG games. I suspect I'd be doing much better if I'd sit down and print out the whole manual (on PDF again - whatever happened to the days when the manual design and text was part of the setup for the game, when reading the manual at least once through was a time-honored ritual before one dared put the disk into the drive?), but my ink and paper supply are currently reserved for the Bryce manual.

Then, there's The Sims 2. Now, the first sims was addictive enough. Blame my sister for roping me into that one... and this one, too. I've watched her play enough to realize that this game is much, much, much more potentially addictive than the first one. See, you only need the latest expansion pack to actually play the game, so she's generously/evilly offered to let me use her old disks to "get started," and then I'll just buy my own Seasons expansion when I'm ready for that. (Little tip: each successive pack messed up the original "scenarios" described in the Prima manuals, so it's advisable to play through those parts before installing the latest expansion pack.) Now, when my sister gives me a game, it's never just the game. When I got roped into the original Sims, I was presented with several burned CDs of downloaded content, tweaks, and hacks, plus a full printout of where each file went and how/when/why to install them. She doesn't just download everything, either - she only downloads the stuff that works, the stuff that's made by people who know what they're doing, the stuff that won't overwrite vital game files or crash the system. Same thing with Zoo Tycoon. I've seen her typing up lists again... I wonder what she's burning off this time...

I'm still waiting to install a few other games, and I haven't finished reloading all the favorites from the past. Heck, I haven't even reintroduced my reloaded FrontPage 2000 to the websites it will be helping perpetuate, nor has the reloaded version of Word been properly acquainted with the stories it will someday bear partial blame for producing. I've been too busy wasting time at the speed of light, or at least the speed of a duo-core Pentium processor.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I suppose I should've expected this... the moment I made my decision to get a new computer, this one, until now a remarkably reliable machine, developed some very disturbing quirks. At best, it's just a battery, but I've never had one go down this fast before, nor have I had a bad battery cause the computer to forget its own CPU on three occasions. Either way, originally I was going to try coordinating schedules with my busy uncle; he wants to buy a computer but is intimidated by the whole process, so he was going to ride along when I went to order mine. Now, I no longer have the luxury of time. I need a new computer, and I need it now.

In a way, this is a good thing. First off, coordinating anything with this particular relative has always been a particularly tricky proposition. He is one of those people who spends more time at his job than in his own home, and seems just as content to keep it that way (or rather, is more fearful of the unknown devils that await should he attempt a course correction at this stage of the game.) Secondly, I've been stuck in limbo waiting for said coordination to occur. I don't want to start the Skyhaven Hunt rebuilding only to have something go Horribly Wrong during the transfer and have to start all over from scratch. (That's why I wanted a relatively recent update online, as a last-resort backup copy.) Speaking of Skyhaven, I wanted to get more jewelwings and gargoyles done up, but again it's not something I can do on a computer that's on its way out. I can't really get too immersed in writing, knowing that I'll be thrown off of whatever schedule I manage to establish when I have to reload Word and all my background info files. I can't even install new programs, especially when I have no fewer than four disks waiting eagerly for a computer capable of meeting their specs.

So, anyway, I'll be spending this weekend digging up all the essential disks and documentation I want/need to go to the new computer, and on Monday I hope/plan to order the new computer. My sister got hers the next day, so that gives me Tuesday to play with the thing before heading back to work on Wednesday. I sincerely hope to have most everything back to "normal" by next weekend, but if I vanish for a prolonged time, now you'll have a good idea of what's going on.

Wish me luck, and hopefully I'll be seeing you on the far side of the upgrade soon...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A year, already?

Actually, a year and a day or two... that's when I first started this blog. Just think, it was only a year ago that I was a 3o-year-old unemployed loser living at home and whining about my life to the internet in general. Now look at me - I'm a 31-year-old employed loser living at home and whining about my life to the internet in general. What a difference a year makes...

I thought it was worth a post of commemoration, if nothing else.

Last week, I was trying to get my life in order. This week, I've taken it literally and started organizing "my" parts of the house. With four adults in one household, certain areas end up under certain people's jurisdictions, and while my own personal territory is rather small (a corner of the living room, a workbench in the basement, some storage space in the shed, and my bedroom), it still tends to accumulate junk at an alarming rate when I'm not paying attention. There are places I can't go near until I have sufficient storage space cleared (which can't happen until the yard dries out and I can get to the storage sheds), but I've made visible progress. I've heard from a number of sources that you cannot receive anything unless you have an open place in your life, and that clutter on a physical, mental, and spiritual level is a sure-fire way to ensure that you won't get anything or anywhere. Regardless of whether that's true, I just plain feel better when my surroundings are relatively tidy. I say "relatively" because I'll never have a Martha Stewart sense of tidyness. Actually, having things too sterile and pristine makes me a bit nervous, like being in a showroom house where you're certain you're devaluing the property simply by crossing the threshold. My definition of organization is having books on shelves, papers in folders, and a good idea of what's in a box or drawer before I open it. Of course, thirtyish years of packratism enforced by being raised in a nest of packrats isn't exactly the easiest thing to get over, nor is it easy to clean up my space when others stubbornly continue to hoard clutter (clutter which seems to keep encroaching on my space despite my best efforts to counter the creep), but I'm working on it.

Like most things I do, my cleanup kick has a bit of an ulterior motive. I need to get my tax stuff together, for one thing, and I also need to go through my computer stuff to get all my Really Important Stuff in order. April is the month I have pegged for the new computer, and it'll go that much easier if I have a space cleared out and all my disks for programs and accessories ready to go. I have, by the way, decided to go through the shop that my sister bought through. They fixed her problem by installing a new motherboard, which will allow her to upgrade to 4 GB of RAM if/when she upgrades to Vista (XP only recognizes 3 GB of RAM, and Vista's a memory hog.) I'd like the option to upgrade without creating random crashouts, so I'll be requesting the same motherboard that she wound up with. It's a bit more expensive, but it's worth it to have a stable computer. They also assemble computers pretty fast, and the sooner I can get everything up and running again, the sooner I can install my new toys, and the sooner I can get serious about upgrading the Skyhaven Hunt.

I suppose I ought to trudge off. Monday's only a few minutes away, and I have a lot more clutter clearing to do tomorrow.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Operation Machete - Phase 1 Complete

Well, I just posted the latest site update. Skyhaven Adoptions now has a new look, the Skyhaven Hunt is temporarily closed for renovations, and Brightdreamer Books & More now is a proud affiliate of Amazon.com rather than Barnes & Noble. Not too terribly bad for two months' work, if I do say so myself... (I say this, naturally, knowing my own tendency toward laziness. Heck, accomplishing anything at all in two months isn't too terribly bad by my standards.)

What's next? Well, the Hunt needs rebuilding, for starters. I already have a few evil ideas about its new incarnation, most notably in the graphics department. To give you a hint, one of my more recent purchases was a (discounted) copy of Bryce 5.5, a 3D rendering program that promises to allow me to create entire realistic worlds right on my own computer. Whether or not it lives up to the box hype I'll find out when I install it, and I won't install it until I get a new computer. (I won't get that, ideally, until some time in April. I'm still earning the money to pay for it, for one thing, and I'm waiting to see if the store I plan to buy it from ever resolves the problems that my sister is having with her new machine from them. Hers is apparently the only one in the batch with these issues, but she had some rather special specs, and the motherboard is apparently somewhat tricky about special specs.) Yes, I bought a program before I have the computer to run it properly. I already have a game that's waiting for the new machine (Paradise), too, and I have a sneaking suspicion that my sister will convince me that I'll need my own copy of The Sims 2 to keep Bryce and Paradise company on my big new hard drive. I call it planning ahead... yeah, that's it. Planning ahead...

I also need to get my own life in gear. I've had my new job for about two months now. Part of the conditions I asked the universe for concerning this new job was that it would enable me to successfully pursue my own creative endeavors. I admit I haven't exactly been diligent about that end of the deal, and the only one I can ultimately blame for that is myself. The job itself is only three days a week, and it's not exactly work you take home with you (unless you check out a book while you're there - yes, I can check out library material if it doesn't have a hold tag and the Great Machine hasn't scanned it into the system. Pretty cool, huh?) Now that I'm more or less certain I won't be kicked out of the job anytime soon, I need to grit my teeth and start working on those oh-so-nebulous dreams of mine. I mean the dreams of walking into a bookstore and seeing my stories on the shelf, or creating my own illustrations for said stories, not the dreams where I'm being chased by the school bus or wandering through a gaming world.

Well, no, blogging isn't earning money for a new computer, nor is it getting me any closer to anything resembling a dream, is it? Guess I ought to sign off for now and get back to work...

Monday, March 19, 2007

This Is Your One-Week Warning, Skyhaven Fans...


This is your ONE-WEEK WARNING... if you are in the middle of the Skyhaven Hunt, you'd best hurry. I am updating Skyhaven Adoptions within ONE WEEK of this post. The Skyhaven Hunt itself is temporarily closed as of this coming update. (I would've waited to update until I had the new Hunt ready to go, but my hand's been forced by Barnes & Noble. They're changing their affiliate program, and long story short if I can't switch to Amazon I will no longer have any book links whatsoever.) All outstanding Gargoyles and Jewelwings will be safe, but the Skyhaven Hunt itself will - once again - be closed for an undetermined lenght of time while I completely rebuild it from the ground up. That means that few, if any, existing puzzles or mazes will be left intact when I do restore the Hunt. That means that, if you're hot on the trail of some particularly elusive prize, you'd best get crackin' on solving it before the update hits the 'net.

When will that happen, you ask?

Within ONE WEEK of today, Monday, March 19 2007.

Consider this a courtesy warning...

Thank you, and happy (hurried) hunting!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Droolin' and Dreamin'...

Intel Core 2 Duo CPU...

GeForce 7600GT 256MB graphics card...

16x DVD RW...

320 GB hard drive...

1 GB RAM...

Loaded with XP or Vista Home Premium...

1 year parts/3 years labor warranty...

All this and more, for under $1200...

Yep, I've been looking at computers again, and I feel myself getting closer and closer to actually making a purchase. Nothing against my Pentium III machine, mind you, but it's getting harder and harder to justify holding onto it when it's just a matter of time before it finally goes the way of my 386 and my 8088. (I'd say it would go the way of the Commodore, but last I checked they still booted up, unlike the later computers.) If nothing else, it's getting harder to find software primitive enough for it to handle. Most everything's on DVD-ROMs these days, and while I'm fairly certain a DVD drive can read CDs, I know CD drives can't reciprocate. Even the recommended specs of simple games seem to be getting higher and higher, and my machine's falling further and further behind the information curve. (Well, that and I'd really, really, really like to get a sleek new machine.) But, of course, it's not as simple as that. There's data transfer, for one thing. Skyhaven's still a half-finished mess on my end. If I were to update now - and I do want to update, if possible, before transferring machines so I have a backup on the internet in case something goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong - the Hunt would be obliterated, and I wanted at least a start on the new Hunt ready to go. Granted, I'd have that start if I could get my brain to focus, but the fact remains that I don't have it at the moment, and it may be a little while before I do. And then there's scrounging for all the disks of all the programs I'd want to keep, like Paint Shop Pro 8 and the support/extra software for my Wacom tablet, my camera, and stuff like that. I might also have to consider a new printer, as the HP 780c's been hanging on for a few computers now and may well be too primitive for a new machine. Then there's always the little stuff you don't always consider, like getting everything set back up how you like it on a new computer, uploading desktop pics, setting sound options, getting e-mail and internet going again, and junk like that.

But... you knew one of those was coming, didn't you? My sister just bought a computer from the local shop whose ad I quoted at the start of this entry. She actually ordered it yesterday, and it was ready today. Our old shop took about a week to get a new computer built, but this place has enough preassembled (without actually being one of those national proprietary pains in the rear) that she actually could've taken it home yesterday if she hadn't wanted a few custom features installed. Since she does a lot of gaming, and since Vista is a) showing some compatibility issues and b) too new for the bugs to be worked out yet - not to mention c) apparently, according to a person she knows who beta-tested most of Microsoft's operating systems since at least Windows 98, a memory-eating waste of money that doesn't really "do" anything better from the standpoint of the average user - she got it loaded with Windows XP. I, too, would like to stick with XP until forced to switch to Vista, as I really don't want to relearn how to do everything at the moment. The thing is, since the system itself usually comes preloaded with Vista Home Premium, they gave her a free upgrade coupon, which she has until the 15th of this month to redeem. A free upgrade is nothing to sneeze at. So this is a better machine, at a decent price, with a very quick turnaround time... and a free upgrade. If I order by March 15th. The 15th. One week from today.

I wonder how fast I can get Skyhaven ready...