Thursday, June 30, 2005

Better Late than Never!

So, for those that may not know, I am an architect by profession. It is a great job, and really can be something different every day. Seeing how variety is often on the top of my spice rack of life, it all works out fairly well.

The trend in my profession, as the trend is in all aspects of life, is toward using the computer to do more and more of our work. I am still old enough to have been trained in the paper and pencil method of drawing and designing, the subject of which would constitute a rant the size of utah in this space. Suffice to say, until a few weeks ago, I felt the compter was only good for research, reading webcomics and surfing for pictures and stories about naughty bits.

The de rigeur computer program for architects has always been AutoCad, a fairly cumbersome and unfriendly drafting tool. Note that last bit there....drafting tool. Not really a design tool, AutoCad helps the draftsperson out fairly well, as far as I know.

BUT, the dopey computer industry told me that the computer would be able to help me do design work, to visualize buildings in three dimensions, and show my clients easy to create animated walkthroughs and real time shadow studies with just a click and a bit of keyboarding. Lies! Lies! Lies! It had never happened.

Enter the Dragon. Okay, enter a happy little program called SketchUp. This crazy thing does everything the computer indutry promised that it would do for me ten years ago. I am falling in love all over again. Once my sister in law teaches me how to post photos and web links here, I can show you some of the "output" of my creations. Until then, rest assured that I have finally joined the 21st century.....and beyond.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I have WAY too many men in my life...

If the overall theme of life is one of balance and harmony, which it is, then one of the constant push and pull aspects of that theme is Stuff vis a vis Living Simply. Let's face it, like all good little middle class American citizens, I love to shop, I love buying things, and I love everything that is new and cool. What I do not love however, is actually owning a whole bunch of stuff that I never use, but somehow have projected some kind of emotional or spiritual attachment to.

I am desperately trying to limit my belongings and pare down the rampant collections that seem to be overflowing from every available nook and / or cranny in the toasty english muffin that is our current domicile. The current collection that I am working on is with my "Little Men", or Mage Knight Collectible Miniatures game figures. I had been playing this game for years, and it has pretty much dried up in this area, according to the usual ebb and flow of fad gaming. The result is that I have over one thousand inch high fantasy figures that I will most likely never use again, not counting the dragons, tanks, seige equipment and full castle "playset" accessories.

So what to do? I believe that I have a plan for the ones that I will keep, and the ones that I will be rid of, but how best to dispose of my toys? I truly do love them all, and many of them are links to fun games, lots of laughs, and friends past. Do they deserve to be chucked in the bin? Given to neighborhood kids to play with, only to witness their imminent neglect and destruction as they are trampled and / or left out in the rain? Handed to future gamers in a big bag, with a little tear in my eye and a fond farewell? Perhaps.

A good friend of mine is on a campaign to get rid of half of his stuff. Half! Like a bad divorce, without the joys of once being married. I do not know if I have the fortitude for such a divestiture of my "worldy" (read: geeky) possessions, but it does set an amazing precedent in the extreme that I can use to set my own "Living Simply With Less Stuff" balance barometer.

So I ask you, could you live with half your "stuff"?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Terrafontis, or...My Name is Mud....

My goodely wife and I have been on, amongst other things, a mutual voyage of spiritual self discovery. We have both left the Catholic Church for a variety of reasons, and have also fallen out of interest with the Unitarian Church. How in the Helen of Troy do you become a lapsed Unitarian? I am not very sure, but we could write the book on the subject, if we were motivated to do so. I think you get the idea. I was beginning to feel that without a beief in the afterlife, any god or goddesses or the Great Beyond (tm), that I had no faith. That little revelation left me feeling empty and lost, and actively courting the Jehovah's Witnesses. It wasn't until I sat down with our local Unitarian Minister that I realized I had an ABUNDANCE of faith.

Listen: Faith really just means a belief in something that cannot be proven. I cannot PROVE that there is no afterlife and no God, it is just something that I believe. I cannot PROVE the inherent worth and dignity of every person, it is just something that I believe. I also, come to think of it, cannot PROVE that JarJarBinks was not as bad as people thought, it is just something that I believe.

In any event, we have a nice group of friends that run the gamut in paganism from casual to serious. So far, we have some resonance with the ideas and observances surrounding the pagan religion. To our rational minds, it makes sense to have some observance, or at least ascribe to ceremonies and proceedings that are thousands of years old. I like the idea that while I am not "worshipping" the elements of earth, air, fire and water, I can understand why these things are important, and could do with a little deliberate observance.

During the first formal circle that we were a part of, the group called upon and welcomed the elements, and I found myself reflecting and contemplative of which ones resonated with me. I have always loved water, flowing and changing, enriching and nourishing, yet present every time I cry. Earth for strength also has a resonance for me, and combined, well, I like to think that combined they would make the beach or the shore, which holds a special place for me.

Now, take these thousands and thousands of years old practices, and apply modern technology to them. My current group of pagan connections have a web presence, an online forum board, and a recommended reading list. Oh, if the druids at Stonehenge could only see us now. It is anachronistically yummy.

Random tie in: In my various fantasy gaming interests, sometimes to come up with good sounding names, I will head over to an online English to Latin dictionary, and type in cool words to see what their Latin counterparts are. Vispilio, for instance, translates to "Thief in the Night"...a perfect vampire name. In searching for a good online pagan name, I typed in various versions of "water" and "earth" and finally settled on Terrafontis, "earth fountain".

So, it came as little surprise to me (although I was puzzled while I was doing it) that I ended up carving a formal circle of my own by lowering my mower blades and creating a micro glen in the backyard. In the near future, I hope to head out there with my Orienteering Kit to identify the cardinal points, and hopefully have a few of my friends over to dedicate my own sacred space.

Which begs the question (good dog, but no begging!) Where is your sacred space? Is it a church, a meadow, a coffee shoppe, or is your sacred space deep inside you, where you go to reflect, renew and nourish yourself? Inquiring minds want to know.......

Monday, June 27, 2005

Where everybody knows your ...alternate personality?

I was going to name this post "2,000,000 of my closest friends", but felt the Cheers reference dated me a bit better. Both titles, refer, of course, to my experiences with MMORPGing. Massively Mulitplayer Online Role Playing Gaming in general, and World of Warcraft in particular has become an ever increasingly important part of my life.

Even if you can forget the fact that the game is essentially a 3d interactive Dungeons and Dragons movie starring ME, the idea that I am playing in a community of like minded folks numbering in the millions is staggering.

There are all sorts of nuts and bolts kinds of things that I can talk about today, but I would rather touch in on the metaphysical. There are now dozens of people that know Yours Truly only as Fastred, the loveable if unwashed dwarven hunter. Think about that, then think about your own online presence. How would the people in your Real Life react if they knew all of your personalities? Would they be freakishly curious, appaled, turned on, turned off, incensed...which?

Now, even more to the point, if you have a significant other, how much of your online life do you share with that person? Did you meet online perhaps? When did you tell your friends that you had a Blog, and did you tell all of them? There are folks in this game of mine that have met, fallen "in love" and have gotten virtually married, without ever having actually seen or met each other. Truly amazing. How can this be called virtual reality then? On some level, the game becomes a reality all of its own, ever changing, being affected by those who play it, and like that wacky cat in the box in the famous scientific parable, the game world is changed simply by my involvement in it.

As much joy as I get from my virtual world of fantasy gaming, I also derive an extra helping of stress as well. There are social issues that crop up all the time, competitiveness and flat out goal achieving stresses that, for many including myself, can rival what goes on in home and career life. You should see my list of Things to Do....peppered in with client management and chores around the house are such things as "collect Plainstrider Beaks, forge Arcanite bars for the online Auction House...etc.".

How long can someone sustain this kind of duality? How much of my real life am I sacrificing for the virtual? Only time can tell. I remember when I got my first personal computer, I had to actually disconnect the power cord and lock it in the trunk of my car to keep me from obsessing over the internet and computer programs. Thank goodness these days I have some semblance of control over my habits, and have also married a fine woman that can exercise even MORE control over my rampant online excapades.

There is no wrap up for this post, as both my virtual and real life are ever changing and ever evolving. Best I can do is "Watch this space for updates."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Let us Begin...the Begin.

Yes, there will be some spoilers below, but by the time you read this, the movie will have been out for awhile, so if you haven't seen it yet, that is your bad! We talk about, of course, Batman Begins.

Disclaimer: excuse my spelling of folkses names, I am pretty awful at that sort of thing. Sure, I could File:Open:New Browser Window and look them all up, but heck, that's just too much work!

What can I say? The movie had some tough, tough work to do. How many times have I seen, read, heard or even told Batman's origin story? I believe the number is akin to how many angels vis-a-vis the head of a pin. This latest installment is also making the attempt to revitalize the franchise, rescuing it from the abysmal Joel Schumacher days, better known as The Time of Which We Do Not Speak.

In this regard, the movie does an excellent job. The aesthetics are definitely Dark Knight, and not Caped Crusader, but the over all vision of Gotham City is less World of Darkness and more "realistic" in terms of its architecture. I loved the Blade Runner like feel of the Narrows as well. Christian Bale looks wonderful in the batsuit, although he comes off as "overdoing" the gruff batvoice when he is being intimidated. Gary Oldman does an excellent job as the unsure Sgt. Gordon, struggling to be one of the only good cops left in this corrupt city.

Bad guy wise, I found the actor what played Dr. Jonathan Crane far creepier than his Scarecrow counterpart. Really, a fantastic portrayal of a dark and disturbed "chip on his shoulder" character. The crime boss actor did an excellent job as well, if perhaps a bit too Dick Tracy villianesque in his delivery. SO easy to be critical, isn't it? Liam Nieson was as exceptional as I have come to expect as Ra's Al Ghul. Liam Nieson could be James Bond, easily.

Speaking of critical, I was left unimpressed by the "love interest" played by Katie Holmes. Besides the obligatory nipplage (of which there was plenty, wasn't it summer in Gotham?) I just didn't feel any chemistry there. To be honest, comic book Batman had very little in terms of romantic involvement, yet Hollywood feels compelled to pump this aspect of Batman's life up to uncomfortable heights. Just when I thought Batman was actually going to get away without telling anyone his identity, the script writers go and blow it in a heavy handed "code worded" kind of way that Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfieffer did SO much better in Batman Returns. Having said all this about the poor Ms. Holmes, I wish her nothing but the best in her upcoming nuptuals.

Oooo...this just in, if her character in Batman becomes the District Attourney (and her boss was killed, so why not) then perhaps we could be looking at a female Two-Face? that would be an excellent departure from canon that I would be interested in exploring. We can assume that the next movie will trot out the Joker, and again I many times have I seen this? I would like something new and exciting from the ONLY comic book franchise that DC comics seems to be able to sustain at the movies.

Bottom Line: I give this movie 4 out of 5 cans of Bat-Shark Repellant Spray.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Like a concert virtuoso....

Let me start this post by stating that , yes Virginia, I am a Fancy Lad. I didn't feel much like working today, so left at noon, went home to play some video games, then went for some major upscale primping. Shave and a Haircut is more than just two bits, it is a little slice of heaven. Sure, there are some hairy (ha!) parts of the procedure, such as the application of the straight razor to ones unprotected neck. I wonder if the "barbier" ever gets that urge like many folk do when faced with a cliff edge or bridge. I have certainly felt that self destructive urge to hurl myself into the abyss on more than one occasion. Conversely, I wonder how many straight razor wielding barbers get the urge to just slice that one neck open...What's one neck in a career where you are shaving 50 people a day? Isn't 99 out of a hundred still an "A"? I guess not where the carotid artery is concerned. In any event, I get that fresh from the barber shoppe feel coupled with narrowly escaping certain death. I win...again.

Sure, Robert, that's a nice spin on a standard afternoon, but that doesn't make you much of a Fancy Lad (tm), now does it? Well faithful reader, from the haircut shoppe we (dare I say) sashayed down to the nail parlour to get a manicure. Yes, a manicure.

Now is a good time to illuminate my fingernail situation. Ask my goodely wife and she will tell fingernails, or lack thereof, have always been a source of horror for us both! The cuticular nightmare of my nail biting habit was almost George Romero-ian in scope and gore. I kid you not...when I ran out of nails to bite, I would keep going until I found myself one day ingesting half of my own femur. True story.

So last month, I decided to stop biting my nails. Cold Turkey, thy name is Robert. Imagine our surprise when a 30 year habit died just. like. that. I was so pleased, I took myself to my second manicure in my life. The first was when I got married. Amazing! There is a whole world out there that most men ne'er get a chance to view, though I am sure many are happier that way. In some ways a wild fish market, with every language imaginable being spoken at once, bottles of ointments and sharp edged instruments being passed from one woman to another in a dance macabre of hand hygene. Part assembly line, as the no-nonsense focused approach to cleaning and polishing your hands is displayed by the licensed and bonded nail technicians. Part bordello / dance hall feeling where the only man in the place is the proprietor that takes your money and sets you up with one of the young ladies in his stable for your 20 minutes. Now wrap all that up and realize that this is a weekly event for many people. This being the third time in my life to be "under the drying fan", I was sitting with my usual child like wide eyed amazement as the woman sitting across from me chitted and chatted whilst working on me mitts with her file like a violin performer. In no time at all, my unusually long fingernails were snipped, climped, buffed, polished and made oh so pretty, but still in a "Man" sort of way. I was the only male customer in there, which was also a set of odds that I can work with. Note to self and others: get your haircut first on Primping Day, as you want to look your best at the nail salon.

Did I mention the hand massage?

Welcome, and Merry Met!

Hello everyone!

Well, here I go, taking the plunge into the wonderful world of online diary keeping. This should be an interesting experiment, and I am looking forward to exploring this organic medium.

Take a look at my profile for some basic information about who I am, and what I am up to. Thanks for checking in, let's see what develops, eh?