A little experiment in blogging motivation

I’m starting a little experiment here today. It has been two months since the last time I posted here and even back then I have been extremely quiet. It seems that G+ (my G+ profile) has hit that magic spot for me and manages to sate the blogger within.

However I’m loathe to let this space die. My wife’s blog (which is also hosted under this domain name), Insomnica Ramblings - My Reality, is doing a roaring trade. So I decided to try and take some of my very informal ramblings on G+ and repackage them and post them here.

I’m not going to just regurgitate what I’ve posted on G+ however. I believe this cross-posting stuff is a crime against social media in general. Instead I have my public G+ posts imported as draft posts on WordPress here. From there I plan to rework them into more fully realised blog posts (or not) on a case by case basis.

So lets see how it goes. :)

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“A Non Designer’s Design Book”

I read lots on my holidays, as you do. But the best book I read over my holidays  was actually a non-fiction book: A Non Designer’s Design Book.

tnddb_coverI’ve had this book ages. I read the first half of it a long time back, realised it made a lot of sense and then stopped reading because I wanted to assimilate the lessons. Which seemed to really only half-worked, as I never put them into practice. Then on holidays I decided to read it all the way through, re-affirming what I had remembered. But it wasn’t until I read the final chapter on type that it really opened my eyes. My god have I been screwing up layouts for years and couldn’t understand why.

I’ve always struggle with layout to the point where I’ve kinda turned off writing games in public. Seriously, no matter how good your idea or game is, and even if it’s free, if you can’t present it in a nice package, no-one will read it. It was like a creative block. Even though I can draw and I consider myself somewhat artistic, layout just eluded me.

While this book isn’t going to convert me into a super-nifty master of DTP and web design, at least now I can understand why my layouts suck and that means I can actually do it better or at least not so shit. As soon as I finished the book I started mucking around and re-did the logo for my Lost Heroes RPG project (the attached image) just using the fonts I had on my laptop, within a few hours. I much prefer this logo to the one I spend a feck’in age doing. It’s making my layout choices deliberate rather than just guessing/instinct.


My original/previous logo for Lost Heroes RPG

Updated logo for Lost Heroes RPG

It’s inspired me to try and do stuff again. I’ve installed Scribus and it’s not so overwhelming to me any more. This book gets a +1 from me. :)

(Originally posted on G+ 31/7/12)

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Lessons Learned from my holidays

When packing for travelling on ferry overnight, less is better. There is only so many bags you can pull around with you on the ferry.

The overnight ferry from Ireland to France is a honeypot for 3DS streetpasses.

Weddings in the rain are still great.

My 5yo son is a special kind of party animal.

Three or four days of good weather in France is better than a month of okay-ish Irish weather.

If you can loose your sense of time on holidays, it’s wonderful and refreshing.

Don’t have a tooth ache or loose a filling in France during July (everyone including all the Dentists are on holidays)

Having a car when on holidays is a godsend.

In France, breakfast cereals seem to be either for kids or for women on diets. (I miss my weetabix).

Foamed hot milk is not good for drinking Irish/strong tea, no manner how fancy the jug.

Double check tickets. Make particularly important notes of the ports. Likewise check routes.

Conte cheese does not do well driving for 6-7 hours per day over two days in 30 degrees heat. It smells very bad.

My wife really doesn’t like bad smells.

For that matter, kids don’t do well being in the car for hours in that heat.

Also adults don’t do well driving… with grumpy/restless kids… in that heat… for that long … with the smell of rotten cheese… after going to the wrong port for the ferry home.

Smelly French cheese can survive anything.

Repeat: double check tickets.

Unexpected extra time allows you to discover nice beaches in Brittany.

Always have towels. Sand gets everywhere.

While the instinct to get home is powerful, it’s better to wait three days for the next ferry to Ireland than take the next available ferry to UK, drive across Wales and take a second ferry home. It’s not worth it in money, energy and sanity.

Visit the UK. It appears to be a very nice place to visit.

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My new Wacom Bamboo tablet!

October-November of last year, I got a graphics tablet for my birthday; a lovely Wacom Bamboo tablet. And since then I’ve been learning to use it, going through several tutorials, then finding my own way. It’s actually got me loving doing drawing and and making me want to draw and create. (Warning image heavy post after the cut!)

Continued reading >

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Apparently I’ve become a morning person…

Apparently I’ve become a morning person. This is something has crept up on me. It certainly wasn’t intentional.

The New York Times has this quiz that determines if you are morning or night person. I got about 21 on the scale. I wake at 6am, every morning, even on weekends. When I get the chance to sleep in, I often still wake up automatically at 6am and then fall back a sleep. It sort sucks. I often get sleepy at 10pm.

The thing is I wasn’t or never really considered myself a morning person. At least in college I used to code well into the night on projects, but these days going past midnight is a big deal. Now my best time is morning time and pre-lunch. This time is nearly completely monopolised by work and on the weekend by the kids.

Which leaves me feeling frustrated when I try to do some of my own projects in the evening. I only get a small window, once the kids are sleep where I can totally focus on my own stuff. I wouldn’t mind being a morning person if I got an hour to myself every morning, but with kids you don’t.

Becoming a night owl isn’t the answer either. I think ultimately – I need more sleep. My, look at the time! ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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Last night at storytime with the kids…

Last night at storytime I figured that maybe my 7yo daughter Alice would be ready for some of my favourite books as a kid. I suggested we read some Roald Dahl and she agreed. Last time I tried to read some, it didn’t go down well but this time she told me her best friend was reading Matilda.

We read the first chapter and have to say I had forgotten how wonderful Roald Dahl writes. Matilda is about a little girl who happens to be a genius but has horrible parents. The first chapter is about the wonder of books and libraries. After the first chapter, my daughter asked to read more herself and she would have read all night if I hadn’t told her to go to sleep.

And this morning, she was telling me all the terrible tricks that Matilda did on her parents in revenge. I remember the story myself when I read it as a kid and to see the excitement from my daughter as she retells how Matilda put super glue on her father’s hat or how she switched her mother’s hair bleach with her father’s hair spray, made me all happy this morning.

tl;dr Books rock.

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Some Mini-Reviews of 3DS games

I’ve finally put down my 3DS to do some writing. And I thought I’d quick jot down my thoughts on the batch of 3DS games I’ve gotten over Christmas. I had wanted to write a single post on each of three games I’m about to mention, but I found I just don’t have that much to say on them individually.

Continued reading >

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My daughter wants to be a Ninja!

(I tried to avoid doing cross-post, but I think this is too cute to not share and it gives me an excuse to put Ninja legitimately in a post title!)

My seven year old daughter Alice announced she wants to be a ninja when she grows up. She’s already formed a secret ninja club (girls only) in her class. And after homework I was press ganged into making ninja stars from tin-foil and cardboard and my wife made braces from black velvet so she could start her ninja training. She plans to train every day.

Of course she is young, she has much to learn and she had many questions, like, how do ninjas train? What do they actually do? What weapons do ninjas use besides ninja stars (toilet roll nun-chucks are planned)? Hmm she is wise. :)

(Someone has already kindly pointed to the Ninja-shirt-technique. This will be tomorrow’s Ninja training!)

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You know, Dungeons and Dragons is not all of the hobby right?

I’ve been an RPG  gamer (I mean Pen and Paper/Tabletop version not computer games)1 for too many years to remember2 and at varying intensities over the years. Right now I have a regular once a week game (online using G+ Hangouts), do a bit of designing and enter lots of nerdy/geek discussions on it. And today my intertubes have been filled with the news that, lo and behold, there is to be a new version of a game about dungeons and the occasional dragons including an article in the New York Times where they talk about “crowdsourcing” this version.

I shrug my shoulders and worry about something else. I have no issue with Dungeons and Dragons RPG or any of the editions - however it has been come something of a standard or emblem of the whole roleplaying hobby. People who don’t really know much, if anything, about roleplaying will have heard of Dungeons and Dragons. And certainly it’s one of the grandfathers of the hobby.

But you know, it’s not the entire hobby at all. It’s a large visible portion sure. But it was not what got me into the hobby. I do not own any books from the series (though I have on many occasions flicked through the Player’s Guide). I only ever played two campaigns of it but only after first playing and running other games for ten years.

I wonder how non-gamers see the hobby. Do they think we all play Elves and Dwarfs raiding dungeons for loot using miniatures on a hexed sheet? I’ve played vampires in the modern day and the ancient world, fought the evils of technology and then donned black suits to keep the aliens secret. Wielded magic entwined with philosophy and esoteric theory and created alien races in the depths of space. I’ve even ran games of gods and demons fighting over the world.

Yet Dungeons and Dragons still forms the outsiders perception of the hobby. It really is the tip of the ice-berg you know. From open-source story systems to systems using CCGs (collectable card games), drawings, cards or beads instead of dice. From linear stories that explore “sedate” human relationships to the pure freeform pleasure of story telling.

And lets not forget LARPs (Live Action Roleplaying) that combine something like Historical Re-enactments with roleplaying and story-telling. While it’s never really been my cup of tea, people do put a lot of effort into them and they are hugely popular.

Yet none of that or news from other non-Dungeons and Dragon’s games gets an article in the new New York Times.

1Yea, terms here are a bit confusing seeing that computer game players seemed to have co-opted the traditional terms we use such as “gamer” and “RPG”.

2I think it’s about two decades now, my friends may have a more accurate accounting.

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I failed at NaNoWriMo 2011, but it isn’t all bad

First things first, happy new year and welcome to 2012! I hope everyone had a pleasant Christmas.

This is a bit of belated post, really should have done this in December but I haven’t written anything since November after NaNoWriMo ended. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, well it’s a month you’re meant to set aside and attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel. The idea is to flat out write non-stop, get the writing juices going.

I sadly finished at only 30063 words, which averages out at about 1000 words a day and just over half the target. Once NaNoWriMo finished, I took short break… and didn’t write until a month later. I was drained, my motivation to write anything had been sapped. It’s not as bad as it sounds, December is full of stress too, new work project, present buying, organising travel and arrangements for the holidays, school shows to attend and so on. So lots of things to drain any extra energy I had. But now the busy-ness of the holidays is over and I can start to get back into the swing of things.

Still I can’t deny that NaNoWriMo drained me a lot. Before that I was doing a solid 1000 words a day with my wordcount. I wasn’t getting 7000 words a week out though because I took a few nights off to do various other things. It was a much more healthy approach. So when I was writing, I was enjoying the process and the wordcount target kept me going. However with NaNoWriMo that got turned up to 11. I had to hit a target of 2000 words a day at least to hit the 50,000 words, and I had to write every day. If I missed a day, I had to catch up the next day. If the story wasn’t working, I couldn’t give up the wordcount for a day to go back over it and see what I needed to do. I had to keep going.

I haven’t looked at what I wrote. It wasn’t until the 20,000 mark when I realised the story wasn’t going to work. But I kept going, pushing forward. I had a lot of good ideas but I mowed through them to try and hit that target. The lack of flexibility created stress and I discovered I really do only have a finite amount of creative “bandwidth” for these things. Pushing over the limit didn’t work for me. Everyone has their own limits. I do a lot with the kids in the evening for example and so my writing is done after the kids are in bed.

It’s not all bad, it was great to attempt to write a novel. Taught me a lot about long-form writing. I’ve written so much flash fiction and short stories over the years that I hadn’t realised that novel writing is a different sort of craft. So there is no regrets. Even during December where I wrote nothing, I did instead reach for my pen and my new Wacom tablet and do some drawings and images. (I even setup a DeviantArt profile if you are that way inclined). It also gave me some space, a break from my existing projects. And now I’m rearing to go, getting back into the swing of things.

Here’s to 2012! Smile

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