Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

24 December, 2012

The Slump

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

It never fails. The last couple of weeks of the semester, as the exams loom overhead and the list of things that absolutely critically need to be done this very moment is always at least a few points too full, I get filled with creative sparks and a burning desire to do anything but this. The procrastination muscles work overtime, and I am brimming with energy I want to apply to something not at all exam-related – start up that online D&D game, finish a stupid story I’ve been neglecting for years and be done with it, reorganise the shelves and sort through the piles and piles of comics that my childhood built up. The second the exams are over, I’ll be ready to go.

And then the exams are over, and I’m not really doing anything at all. Plenty of time now. It can all wait. Let’s play a short game of Sims instead.

In case you’re not familiar with the game yourself; there is no such thing as a short game of Sims.

This post-exam slump is as predictable a part of the process as the panic-induced burst of procrastination energy that precedes it, and yet I never get around to counteracting it. It is at its worst in December, as this break is so much shorten than summer, and as I am a big Christmas fan, I also want to just wallow in holiday bliss without doing more work that strictly necessary.

Speaking of, unless something’s gone wrong, this post goes up on Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, the lot of you!

The next semester will be my last as a student – at least for the foreseeable future – so I guess the pattern of panic and slump will also reach its end. I don’t think life in regular gainful employment has quite as many crunch periods. Next December, I’ll be making tests rather than taking them – which I’m sure is still a good bit of work, but probably with less of the stressful wait beforehand. So no more slump? I’m hopeful, ’cause I’m an incurable optimist, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have Sims to rule and cookies to eat. Merry Christmas, once more.

1 October, 2012

Idle Desires

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I’m having a bit of D&D withdrawal.

It’s been a good while now since last I played the game, and a few months since I even wrote something about my world to release some of the steam. Today, I finally watched this year’s Acquisitions Incorporated episode, and many laughs were had. I also recently got caught up on the excellent Critical Hit podcast, after having fallen a month or so behind. It all adds up to a great big desire for more D&D. Before you know it, I’m scouring Obsidian Portal for interesting wikis, trying to soak up the mood like some desperate sponge.

There’s a new edition of the game on the way. I have barely skimmed the playtest materials currently out there. I like some things, am very sceptical about others, but I’m trying not to make up my mind before I see the finished product. I quite like 4th edition, though – and I already have a bunch of the books – so I doubt I’ll be switching any time soon. Late adopter, that’s me.

But as I’m not really playing, it hardly matters at the moment. I don’t have the time for running a game; that much is certain. I suppose I could try to find someone else to run one and just play in it, but that’s not the easiest project in the world either. No, gathering a group around a table at this point seems an unassailable task.

But, there’s always the Internet. I have been toying with the idea of putting up an ad on Myth Weavers. I don’t have much experience in play-by-post games; I’ve participated in one that sort of petered out pretty quickly when the DM disappeared, and been the DM of another, on Google Wave, that also did not last long. People do make it work however, so maybe I was just unlucky. I could try signing up for a player on a game, I guess, but there aren’t that many 4e games advertised on there, and among those even fewer that I think look interesting.

If I decide to try running one myself, I think I would want the story to circle around exploration – adventurers sailing off into the unknown to explore the world and discover what lies in the blank spots of the map. Possibly structured around a central search for a lost treasure. It’s all in the vague not-even-early stages.

It’s something that I think I will eventually talk myself into, even though I have no idea if I actually have the time to run it properly; I don’t even know what the time requirements will end up being. It’ll take a little more time, though, so while I wait, I’ll just have a look at Obsidian Portal …

24 September, 2012

A Post with a Foolish Conclusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Blog posts are pretty disposable things, really. I’m typing this in a simple little input box in the WordPress back-end; it hardly feels permanent. It’s all bits in the end, little ones and zeroes stored on one hard drive or another, ready to be copied and accessed and viewed whenever convenient.

I feel like this with most things written on a computer, really. It’s disposable, copyable, temporary and flimsy. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I’m sceptical about e-books; they don’t feel real. Sure I can write up a story or other text on a computer, and really should, considering the convenience, but it doesn’t feel real until it’s on actual paper. That’s how it was with my master’s thesis, at any rate.

Of course, just being on paper isn’t enough to make something feel non-disposable either. I often print out stuff that has a limited use and is then discarded – bit of my thesis, to continue the example, that were very much work-in-progress, used for a time and then crumpled up and recycled.

I used to carry notebooks around – and really should start doing that again – to jot down ideas and thought and stories while I had them. I scribbled in them with pencils and wore them out by forcing them into pockets they didn’t really fit in. They were cheap little things, flimsy – there’s that word again – and while they weren’t ever discarded, they were definitely a temporary vessel for thoughts. On the whole though, paper, and books in particular, feels more permanent than typing electronically.

And some books feel very weighty indeed. I’m not talking about printed books here, they’re a thing of their own, I’m talking about notebooks – books for producing text, not consuming it. I recently bought a fancy notebook, to use as a log book for the next part of my study course. Since I knew I was going to keep a log, I decided I wanted a proper book to keep it in, not just another folder of lecture notes. I ended up buying a Paperblank, one of those that imitate the look of old leather binding. I got a hardback one, so it feels solid and looks pretty. It felt so proper that I felt I had to sit down and take some time to write out a title page, with proper letter spacing and as pretty looking letters as my clumsy hand can make. I used pencil sketches I had to erase after using ink and everything!

Like I said, I bought this to keep a log in; it has a specific purpose, which is why I felt I could buy a fancy book for it. I’ve been burned on this before, you see. I bought a couple of Paperblanks a few years ago, pocket sized ones, and found myself stumped. They looked to neat to just scribble notes in. A book that looked that good, I felt, had to be actually filled with something good as well.

And that’s Paperblanks, that basically just fake looking good! I am tempted to get something like this, something that legitimately is awesome, just for the sheer coolness of it. The problem, however, would be compounded; what on Earth would I put in it?! It’s the same urge that makes me want one of those hollowed-out books for hiding stuff in, even though I have nothing worth hiding it it! I would like to have bunches of beautiful books in the shelves, but what do I put in them?

I basically need more intrigue in my life.

9 April, 2012

Did I Mention I’m Insane?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Continuing on the topic of world building, I’m going to give you a little insight into my demented mind. I think world building is just fun, something I occasionally do with no intention of using the world in any sort of story. That’s not the demented bit, I think that’s pretty common for humans in general, whether or not everyone’s conscious of it. No, the demented bit is where I, on occasion, spend hours and hours thinking of tiny and insignificant details that no-one will ever hear about, just because I’m a perfectionist idiot who doesn’t think my imaginary world is worthy of that label if I can’t draw you its star charts.

As an example, I’ll show you a bit of one of my conworlds (that’s constructed world for the uninitiated. This is the Internet, of course it’s a thing). I’m going to use the one I made to play Dungeons & Dragons in, and a world built for a game is of course different from one built for use in prose in some ways, but my madness shines through nonetheless. If you’ve read the D&D 4th edition books, you’ll recognise elements of the base setting here, as this world is based on that, with my own embellishments and changes wherever I felt like it. It is based on 4th edition, but rules elements aren’t really reflected in the world itself, so I think I’ll keep it if I ever move on to a different edition. I haven’t actually used it much in play, though. This is part of the dementia, I have spent more time by far planning this world than using it.

Here, look at this map I made. It’s not finished, and yet I’m showing it to you; a big step for me. The idea is that this is a map made by a character in the world, an academic who drew together various sources to make one big map of all the known world. Yeah. It’s not even an accurate map, I put in errors that this imaginary guy made!  And I’ll probably never even use it! Folly!

A map of the Middle World

Click to embiggen further.

As I said, it’s not finished. A couple of the months are missing symbols, I’m not really happy with the World Axis model, the map itself needs some work, and the constellation map is still pretty blank. Also, I think I might have messed up the order of the constellations of the ecliptic. That is not a joke, this is the sort of thing I spend time thinking about. I’ll give you a moment to pity me.

Actually, don’t, it’s not really warranted. I’m having fun, in my own weird way. I’ve spent quite some time thinking about how all the elements on this map fit together, which bits were owned by whom at what time, and how it all adds up now. Maybe if I finish this map, I’d feel driven enough to run a game in this world that focused on exploration, Age of Sail-style. The map isn’t the main product of this conworlding (yeah, it’s a verb too) of course – I have a by now rather sizeable wiki document detailing various parts of it, and a ludicrously complicated Calc spreadsheet which converts dates between the four calendar systems I’ve thought up. Yes, four calendar systems. Solar, lunar, mathematical and Mesoamerican-style. I did warn you this was an insight into my madness. I don’t dare show you the spreadsheet, it’s a mess of a thing which I’ve basically hacked away at until it did the thing I wanted it to, without ever fully understanding why, and I’m sure anyone who’s good with that sort of thing would point and laugh. I can tell you with some surety, however, that the 20th of Morad, 9651 in the Iounian calendar, is the equivalent of the 17th of Ronníad, 9893 in the Sehaninian calendar, 22/1/9893 in the Dark calendar and 5 rain, 17 hammer, 149 in the Imperial calendar. Geeks, bow before your king!

I think that’s sufficient exposure to my mind for now. It’s good to let some air in, now and then.

16 February, 2012

Abject Terror

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

So, some times you get results you didn’t expect.

Sunday evening I sat there panicking about the impending public shame that would result from a Monday with no post, so I hit upon the idea of making a quick and dirty one, that would be fairly easy – essentially a small list. I knew there would be some duds when I started, right? So I pooped this post out in about forty minutes of not very focused work – which doesn’t mean I picked the links at random, though, they really are very, very good – and then scheduled it for publication. Sure, it wasn’t my best work, but I went on with my day secure in the knowledge that I don’t really have many readers yet.

And then this happened:A tweet by David Willis


And then this happened: Graph of site visitors

And then this happened: A drawing of me hiding under a table

Sure, two hundred people may not be very many in the grand scale of things, but for a fledgling blog that still numbered its posts in single digits and had its previous high point in visitors at 12, it was a bit of a jump. And on that post, too! The half-arsed, minimum-work hackery! It’s very possible this is the largest audience I’ve ever had, and that is what I showed them? And these aren’t people who’ll be coming back, either, I had one chance at an impression here!

It didn’t even look good! The subheadings weren’t very aesthetically pleasing. I thought about trying to make them look better as I wrote the post, maybe make some nice lines under each of them, but decided to not get bogged down in that sort of coding minutiae. That’s the sort of stuff I’d use to distract myself from writing anything at all. So up it went, in all its lack of glory.

Obviously I’m glad Willis liked it enough to comment, that was a nice thing to do of him. But man, it was not a post designed to impress writers I admire.

So, lessons learned? Fear the duds. Try not to be mediocre where large groups might see it. And when you link to someone awesome, someone awesome might also link back to you, so … try not to? That’s the lesson here? Hell if I know.

23 January, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Ever since I first got a mobile phone as a young boy – a giant Motorola monstrosity that in no way fit in my pockets – I have been a curmudgeon when it comes to getting new ones. I scoffed at polyphonic ring tones and coloured screens. “Not for me, this modern nonsense,” I sneered. “I want a good, solid phone I can just call people with!” Operating systems and touch screens? Forget it! Such frivolity would never penetrate my armour of sensibility and austerity!

But when I needed a new mobile over Christmas, I realized that we had now reached the point where I’d basically need to choose between a smartphone and a Jitterbug, so I threw that particular set of principles out the window and ended up getting an Xperia arc S. And dang it all, I love the thing.

It’s just so much fun! There are apps! Games! E-mail, and a good Twitter client and even a good version of Opera! Yeah, yeah, I know, welcome this Luddite to the present day. I acknowledge that I have been pretty silly about the whole thing. I’ll just have to catch up to the rest of the world in a while.

The thing that I have been having the most fun with, strange as it may seem, is the barcode scanner. This probably gives you an insight into the kind of geek I am. Being an avid LibraryThing user, I have already used it to catalogue some new books to great effect. Regular barcodes, though great for numerical codes like ISBNs, aren’t all that fun in the long run, however. Enter QR codes.

QR code

These things.

Yes, I know, Luddite to the present etc. These codes fascinate me. I’m not even sure why. Encoding messages and numbers and URLs and other information to be decoded later – it sings to my inner six year old! I want to find one of those scavenger hunt using these and follow the trail all the way to Narnia.

Deprived of that opportunity, however, I am left casting my mind about for some way to use these things. And I do want to use them. Because they’re cool. I understand they’re widely used in marketing, but I unfortunately don’t really have much of a product to market. Well, there is this blog, I suppose, but I’m not sure it is ready for a media blitz.

QR code

Still, spread the word!

While I was playing with the scanner, I got very excited about using it to mark my books. I could encode tags, collection information, and all sorts of detail right there in the cover! And decode it right there with my phone at any time! I was excited about this plan for at least twenty minutes before I realised that all that information would be much more usefully accessible to me if I just put it on a sticker in plain text.

Having had this otherwise admirable plan shattered by common sense, I’m back at square one. To cheer myself up, I did make some QR codes with some identification codes for my few books that do not have an ISBN, so I could easily look them up in my catalogue with my phone, but it’s not the same. I’ve thought about incorporating a code into some sort of Ex Libris, but I think that runs into the same problem of plain text just being better.

So, I have a marvellously fun new toy, and no earthly idea what to use it for. Googling around for ideas hasn’t been fruitful yet, but I hold out hope. The tech geeks out there have surely cracked this nut many times already. Still, do tell me if you have any ideas, and I’ll give an update somewhere down the line if I figure out a good one.

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