Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rebuilding the To-Do List

I wrapped up the previous iteration of my to-do list at the end of November, with a promise that when the new year arrived I would build a new version of the list. In the meantime, I have given a little thought to the best form for the list, and have settled on building it in phases, where I would expect to finish, or at least be well advanced, in one phase before moving on to the next one.

I expect this iteration of the to-do list to run through to the end of the Easter holiday, after which I'll wrap it up and take stock.

Already Done

We have already managed to tackle three of the tasks from the to-do list:
  • I spent some time sorting through our accumulated documents, and disposed of a whole bunch that were no longer needed. (I also grouped other documents into annual bunches, meaning that next year's task will be one step easier. Which is nice.)
  • As noted yesterday, we spent much of Saturday clearing out the kitchen.
  • And, likewise, we rearranged the sideboard on Saturday.
Phase One There are two tasks remaining in the first phase of the list:
  • I've resumed my task of clearing out my old RPG papers. This mostly involves an awful lot of scanning and then shredding of the documents. It's proceeding apace, but is going to take several more months to get through, I think. (I don't intend to hold up phase two for the completion of this task!)
  • There is one drawer I want to go through and clear out (again). This isn't a long job, but it's one that will bug me if I don't get it done. So that's my task for this weekend.
Phase Two Once the last drawer has been cleared, we'll be in a position where we've finished our decluttering for the time being. This leaves us quite a lot of stuff that has been earmarked for disposal but which is still taking up space. Phase two, therefore, is to correct that:
  • Take the books, clothes, and other useable stuff to the charity shop for donation.
  • Take the boxes, appliances, and other junk to the tip for disposal.
I don't expect phase two to take very long, with the caveat that a couple of things are too heavy for me to lift by myself. Phase Three Once phases one and two are done (hopefully by mid-February), it will be time to move on to phase three, which consists largely of tasks that were deferred from last year...
  • Digital Declutter: I started this last year when I re-catalogued my music. My intention is to do much the same with photos, videos, downloads, and documents on my PC - these should all be moved into a single, easily-backed-up location. Then I'll take a copy onto safe storage, and then go through the various files trying to find a better arrangement for them. The goal is to get everything into a state where it is easily found and accessed, where file names are help with the above, and to get rid of duplicate copies of the same document. (That last, of course, doesn't count backup copies, of course!)
  • Re-fix the Wardrobe: As I mentioned at the time, I wasn't really happy with the end result of my 'fix' of the bedroom wardrobe. I therefore set myself the task to revisit that fix, which was deferred from the previous list. It's time to address this once again.
  • Garden Plug: Likewise, my previous list had a task to remove and dispose of a concrete plug from the garden. This was deferred due to the winter, but will need to be tackled before too long.
  • Redecorate Study: I mentioned this as one of my annual goals, and it's something I have pencilled in for the Easter holiday. The intention is to empty the room completely, remove some fastening plugs the previous owners left, fix the resulting holes in the wall, then repaint the room (changing the colour scheme). That done, we'll then put things back into the room, but take the opportunity to replace some of the furniture, rearrange some others, and generally make the room more pleasant to use.
  • Repaint the Dining Room: Unfortunately, one of the consequences of the Christmas period is that the paintwork in the dining room has been damaged. Since it's not really possible to hide the damage, nor to find some paint to patch it in exactly the same colour, we'll need to redo the paintwork in this room. For the moment, my intent is to repaint the walls (only) in as close to the same colour as we can find. I'm not currently planning to redo the skirting boards or door frames, though this may well change.
And that's the list. As noted, I intend to run this one until the end of the Easter holidays, and I'm hopeful of completing eight of the nine items by then.

(Once we get past the Easter holidays, my suspicion is that I might end up without a to-do list at all - the lists have been getting progressively shorter with each iteration, so it might just be possible that we'll have reached the end, at least for the time being. But we'll see.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Big Achievement

Originally, our plan for the weekend was to try to get out for a walk on Saturday afternoon. However, due to a spot of inclement weather we ended up having to cancel this, and when Funsize went for a sleep we suddenly found ourselves with a block of free time and no clear plans.

After some debate, LC and I finally settled on a task for that afternoon - we would clear out the cupboards in the kitchen, have a big declutter, and rearrange what was left. And, as a side effect, we would also rearrange the sideboard in the dining room, making better use of all of the available storage.

Fun times!

This task then took us the next several hours, and was fairly tedious work. And the end result was that almost everything was rearranged into the same places they were stored previously - I'm sure it's possible to find a better arrangement, but in the event I couldn't see one that had sufficient benefit to justify throwing away my knowledge of where to find things.

But the main result was that a significant amount of stuff that never gets used was marked for decluttering, another significant chunk of stuff was moved out of the kitchen to the aforementioned sideboard, and the remaining stuff was therefore given room to breathe.

All in all, it was a good job well done. Although we were left absurdly pleased at this, frankly minor, achievement!

#1: "Dark Sun Campaign Setting", by Richard Baker, Robert J. Schwalb, and Rodney Thompson

Monday, January 07, 2019

Christmas Preparations and Wash-up, Part Two

Okay, it's a little odd posting again about Christmas this far after the fact, but the post-Christmas activities didn't finally complete until yesterday. Additionally, I've had something of a blog-holiday, and am only now just getting back into things, so here we are. This post picks up from a previous post on the topic from back in December...

  • Cooking the Meal (revised): The major 'lesson learned' of the Christmas period is that when cooking the big roast dinner the oven doesn't actually reach the claimed temperature - between the oven being so very full and between the door being periodically opened (for basting the joint and/or putting things in), it was probably a good 10 degrees lower than was hoped. This naturally messed up my cooking times, especially for the turkey.
  • Leftovers: The big Christmas meal is likely to leave a significant quantity of leftovers, especially when catering for a family of two adults and one tiny person. The leftovers will keep for a few short days, so it's a good idea to have a couple of plans for using them up - this year I made a turkey korma and a festive soup, which was good but still led to more waste than I would have liked.
  • Sorting the Gifts: This is a fairly benign task - the wrapping paper goes straight to recycling, the various bits of packaging want removed (and sent to recycling), and then homes need to be found for the various gifts.
  • Dealing with the Cards: At the end of the Christmas season, the Christmas cards should be gathered and quickly checked: are there any that need to be saved (for craft use, or similar)? If so, these should have the relevant sections harvested and taken away. The rest need to be checked for addresses and other personal information, and shredded if appropriate. And then it all gets recycled.
  • Packing Up: The decorations come down on the 6th of January, in a reverse of the process of putting them up. Fortunately, this is a rather quicker process, since there's no need to worry about an artistic arrangement or similar. The only things to check are that (a) anything fragile needs to be packed with care, and (b) anything that has become damaged should be discarded immediately - don't wait for next year, or you'll never do it!

And that is that. I've been pretty happy with the way Christmas has gone this year, with only two caveats: the cook-time on the turkey and the wasted leftovers. If I cook again next year, I'll need to address both of these. (That said, hopefully next year I'll be in better health, and so be in a better place for that cooking. But I guess we'll see - being ill for Christmas happens distressingly often.)

The main thing I hope to add for next year, which I've quite fancied for a few years but just haven't found time for, is some Christmas baking - some nice festive biscuits or muffins or something. I think that's my next step, which I'll be building in some time early in December...

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Books of the Year 2018

As part of the end-of-year round-up, I can once again present a list of books read in 2018. Note, however, that this list is slightly provisional, as I have had to compose this post in advance, and won't have opportunity to update it for a few days. It is therefore possible that I may have to add a book, or even two, early in the New Year.

(Update: I didn't have to add anything to the list. I've been reading "Anna Karenina", which is taking a fairly long time to get through!)

Here is the list:
  1. "The Legend of Sigurd and GudrĂșn", by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. "Pathfinder: City in the Deep", by Amber E. Scott
  3. "On the Road", by Jack Kerouac *
  4. "The Darkling Child", by Terry Brooks
  5. "Pathfinder: Tower of the Drowned Dead", by Ron Lundeen
  6. "Against a Dark Background", by Iain M. Banks
  7. "Lolita", by Vladimir Nabokov *
  8. "The Sorcerer's Daughter", by Terry Brooks
  9. "Feersum Endjinn", by Iain M. Banks
  10. "Only Dead on the Inside", by James Breakwell
  11. "Pathfinder: Beyond the Veiled Past", by Thurston Hillman
  12. "Ready Player One", by Ernest Cline
  13. "The Black Elfstone", by Terry Brooks
  14. "A Fine Balance", by Rohinton Mistry *
  15. "Pathfinder: Crownfall", by Thurston Hillman
  16. "Coruscant and the Core Worlds", by Craig R. Carey, Chris Doyle, Jason Fry, Paul Sudlow, John Terra, and Daniel Wallace
  17. "Espedair Street", by Iain Banks
  18. "Dangerous Women", edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
  19. "William Shakespeare's Star Wars: The Force Doth Awaken", by Ian Doescher
  20. "Pathfinder: Songbird, Scion, Saboteur", by Crystal Frasier and Richard Pett
  21. "The Hobbit", by J.R.R. Tolkien * **
  22. "O.L.D. Fantasy Heroic Role-playing Game", by Russ Morrissey
  23. "Walking on Glass", by Iain Banks
  24. "The Enchanted Wood", by Enid Blyton *
  25. "Pathfinder: The Twilight Child", by Ron Lundeen
  26. "The Algebraist", by Iain M. Banks
  27. "Rhyming Rings", by David Gemmell
  28. "Norse Mythology", by Neil Gaiman
  29. "The Magic Faraway Tree", by Enid Blyton *
  30. "The Bridge", by Iain Banks
  31. "The Jesus Storybook Bible", by Sally Lloyd-Jones **
  32. "Pathfinder: City in the Lion's Eye", by Mikko Kallio
  33. "The Folk of the Faraway Tree", by Enid Blyton *
  34. "Canal Dreams", by Iain Banks
  35. "Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes", by Wizards of the Coast
  36. "Pathfinder: The Reaper's Right Hand", by John Compton
  37. "White Knight, Black Swan", by David Gemmell
  38. "Up the Faraway Tree", by Enid Blyton *
  39. "Winnie the Pooh", by A.A. Milne * **
  40. "Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game", by West End Games
  41. "Stonemouth", by Iain Banks
  42. "Fools and Mortals", by Bernard Cornwell
  43. "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold", by John le Carré
  44. "Pathfinder: the Six-Legend Soul", by Amber E. Scott
  45. "The Quarry", by Iain Banks
  46. "The World of Peter Rabbit", by Beatrix Potter **
  47. "The Star Wars Sourcebook", by West End Games
  48. "Pathfinder: Secrets of Roderic's Cove", by Adam Daigle
  49. "Midnight's Children", by Salman Rushdie *
  50. "Complicity", by Iain Banks
  51. "Rivers of London", by Ben Aaronovitch
  52. "Dungeon Crawl Classics", by Goodman Games
  53. "Pathfinder: It Came From Hollow Mountain", by Mike Shel
  54. "Dunstan", by Conn Iggulden
  55. "Pathfinder: Runeplague", by Richard Pett
  56. "Whit", by Iain Banks
  57. "Father Christmas's Fake Beard", by Terry Pratchett
  58. "Pathfinder: Temple of the Peacock Spirit", by Jason Keeley
  59. "A Song of Stone", by Iain Banks
  60. "Pathfinder: The City Outside of Time", by Amanda Hamon Kunz
So that's 60 books at the time of writing, including ten books from The List. Of these, there are twenty RPG books. There are two re-reads, and four Books for Funsize (including both re-reads). I should note that I have read quite a lot of other books to Funsize, but elected early on not to include most of them - only those with both a meaningful plot and also a reasonable page count. Otherwise it would just make a mockery of the count (even that Beatrix Potter set is a bit of a stretch - since the box contains 21 books each with their own covers, by the strict rules I laid down they should be 21 individual entries).

The book of the year goes to "White Knight, Black Swan", by David Gemmell, which served as a reminder of just why he was my favourite author for so long. A shame that there shall be no more from him.

None of the books from this year were particularly disappointing, so I'll leave that dubious distinction unassigned for this year.

And that's that. For 2019, the target is once again stated as being 60 books. However, the sublists are in a state of flux this year - I only have three (books from The List, books by Iain Banks, and Pathfinders), and two of these will end early. The rest will be made up of a mix of books. We'll need to see if I can come up with some more sensible sublists for the year...

Monday, December 31, 2018

My Year in 2018

Finally, we come to the end of 2018! It has been quite the year, with the main theme being one of great change. So, time for the end-of-year round-up.

My Year in... Blogging

As in 2017, I set myself a sort-of goal of posting 120 times here and 60 times on the Imaginarium. And, as in 2017, I hit both those targets, despite a major drought on the Imaginarium in the first half of the year. I'm happy with that.

My Year in... Work

For much of last year and the first half of this year, I wasn't able to talk about a big change coming at work - we were recently acquired by another company. I'm still not going into the details here, as part of my "don't talk about work" policy, but I will say that it has been a very positive step, for a few reasons.

The other big news is that around Easter of this year I finally received the much-hoped-for promotion. Which was nice!

My Year in... Health

Things have been much better this year than last year (when they weren't too bad either). So that's all to the good!

My Year in... Gaming

On the other hand, 2018 has been somewhat of a disappointment on the gaming front. I have, rather unexpectedly, found myself running a game at work, which is nice. However, I have largely fallen out of the Falkirk RPG group (for reasons of distance and scheduling), but have not found a group in Livingston. I would be nice to think that might change, but I fear the reality is that if I wanted a group I would have to set one up... and I no longer really have the time or energy to be bothered.

In short, I expect 2019 to also be a very quiet year for gaming.

My Year in... Band

Things have been ticking along quietly in my new band - I'm involved enough to keep practicing without feeling any real pressure, which is nice. I do kind of miss the teaching aspect of it, and there's no prospect of that changing in the new band, but on the other hand I'm not feeling particularly inclined to push for a change.

My Year in... Resolutions

As always, the wrap-up of annual goals, and setting of goals for next year, are handled in another post.

My Year in... Travel

Ah, this year has been crazy!

Our first trip of the year was just a few weeks after the arrival of Funsize, when LC and I travelled to London for a friend's wedding. It was the start of summer, and a really hot weekend - especially as the AC on the train coming home failed.

Then there was the big trip out to the US for a family wedding. This was the best of the trips of the year, with a good time being had by all.

And then there was a third wedding, this involving a short journey and then an overnight stay. I wouldn't mention this except that it was followed immediately by an unexpected journey down South to say goodbye...

A few weeks later, that was then followed by another trip down South for another, more formal goodbye. This was also a good trip, albeit a painful one.

Then, more happily, LC and I (and FS!) spent a few days in Antwerp. This was a good trip, but by then I was really starting to get fed up with travel. I did also feel that just a few days was really enough for Antwerp - we could perhaps have found more to do, but we might have been making things up for the sake of making them up. I recommend the zoo. And the fries.

Not finally, I then had to make a trip back to the US, this time for work. It was fine - tiring and hard work, but very productive.

And then there is one more trip that I shall mention but not discuss further at this stage. Watch this space...

2019 looks like it will start much as this year has been, but will then calm down almost completely. (I may have as many as three trips with work in January and February, but have indicated that I am then not available to travel until the summer.)

I think that our own personal travels will be considerably shorter in range next year - we might make a trip to France in July, but otherwise are likely to remain in the UK, or perhaps even just in Scotland. Part of me thinks that we should seek to travel while it's still easy (grr, Brexit), but a bigger part of me has little desire to spend any more time in a plane!

My Year in... Faith

It has been a good year. LC and I have setting into our new church and been made very welcome. We're both becoming increasingly involved, which is a good thing... to a point. I expect 2019 to essentially be more of the same, which would be good.

My Year in... Sadness

As I alluded to previously, 2018 was another year that featured a great sadness, with the passing of Grandad. As with last year, I wrote about this at some length at the time so won't reiterate here. However, my thoughts at this time are very much with Grandma, who has just faced her first Christmas without him in more than sixty years.

My Year in... Great Joy

In sharp contrast, though, this year saw the completion of Project Tadpole and the arrival of Funsize. Again, I wrote about this at length at the time, so I'll not reiterate it here. Suffice it to say that she's been keeping us busy!

My Year... Overall

As I predicted at the end of last year, 2018 was a year of massive changes. Most of these have been positive, some hugely so, alloyed with one great sadness. I feel we've now really started to settle in Livingston, which means we now have a foundation for moving forward, and I have some significant optimism about 2019 as a result.

Anyway, that's the end-of-year review. As always, I wish you a Happy New Year, and will see you in 2019!

End of Year Update on Goals

It's a bit odd having an end of year update on goals, given that I deliberately only set one for the year (and haven't achieved that). However, since one of the other purposes of this post is to set goals for next year, I'm sticking with the format.

So, firstly an update on the goal:

Books: My stated goal for the year was to complete my reading though the British section of The List. Despite having made some significant progress, this goal fell short - there still remain five books on the list to be read. That's somewhat unfortunate, but not a disaster.

I have, however, managed to read 60 books this year, and have also completed all but one of the normal sub-lists I would set (I've read fewer books from The List than I would prefer). So that's a bit of a result.

Next, some thoughts on things that are not quite goals:
  • Weight: I have ended the year basically where I started. That's slightly disappointing, but also not a disaster - especially given that I recent trip to the US played havoc with things.
  • Gaming: This has been an odd one this year, in that I've been involved in a game at work, which was unexpected but quite nice. Otherwise, it has been a year entirely devoid of gaming, which is unfortunate. Indeed, this year is probably more notable for my starting to get rid of some of the cruft from my gaming collection, and also scanning and shredding my old paper notes, than it is for actual gaming.
  • Blogging: As usual, my semi-formal goal has been to post an average of 10 times a month here and a further 5 times a month over on the Imaginarium. Despite a fairly lengthy drought on the latter, I've actually exceeded both those targets, which is nice.
  • Work: I can't say too much here, but it has been a successful year at work - the much hoped for promotion finally happened, which is nice.
  • The To-Do List: There have been a large number of tasks around the house that have needed done, and these have mostly been completed. I'm particularly pleased with the redecoration of the main bedroom, which has come together nicely. I think I'd still quite like to get the study redecorated, and there's still a few bits and pieces of decluttering to do, but that's not too bad.
So, that's how things have panned out over the past year. What about goals for 2019? I'm going to propose four:
  • Books: The usual goal of 60 books for the year. As in 2018, I'm stating a goal of getting the British segment of The List done. Other than that, it's going to be an odd year for reading - I only have three sublists, two of which won't run for the full year. The rest will be made up of a mixture of books, unless and until I hit on a new theme.
  • Weight: In 2019 I'll need to get back to work on this. The target is to end the year 20 pounds lighter than I start.
  • Blogging: Time to formalise the informal goal of past years: 120 posts here, plus 60 on The Imaginarium.
  • Redecorate the Study: When we moved in we identified two rooms in the house as needing redecoration - the main bedroom and the study. Having redone the main bedroom in 2018, it is now the turn of the study.
And that's it. Part of me would like to set a goal to get some gaming done in 2019 (outside of the context of the work game), but I'm really not sure how realistic that is. I think, therefore, it's best to leave that as a nice-to-have for this year.

#59: "A Song of Stone", by Iain Banks #60: "Pathfinder: The City Outside of Time", by Amanda Hamon Kunz

Friday, December 21, 2018

My Latest Silly Idea...

With Parliament in recess and Trump about to go off on holiday, it's time for us to spring into action. I suggest that, starting on the 1st of January, we collectively agree the following:
  • Kiefer Sutherland has actually been president all along, having become so in a bizarre and convoluted sequence of events. (It has to be him, so that there's televisual evidence. After all, TV wouldn't lie to us...)
  • Brexit was actually Ricky Gervais' most ambitious comedy project ever, and a true triumph of British humour. I mean, the very notion that we'd consider utterly trashing our economy simply to get blue passports. Naturally, Brexiteers should be lauded for playing their roles to perfection, and Theresa May deserves all the plaudits going for her absolute commitment to playing such a terrible character. Truly, she stands in the top echelon of such characters, along with Basil Fawlty, David Brent, and Gordon Brittas.
Of course, whenever anyone expresses any doubt about how this all came to be, we need to collectively shake out heads, mutter something about "fake news", and absolutely positively deny any and all knowledge.

I reckon, if we stick to it hard enough, we can convince the world that it really was all a dream.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Why Did Nobody Tell Me?

In amongst all the excitement of the last few weeks, I neglected to mention my exciting new find: when hunting for Christmas presents during the Black Friday sales, I happened upon the not-quite-latest range of Transformers toys. And it seems that the "Return of the Legends" line was followed by a "Power of the Primes" line... which featured new versions of the dinobots!

But there's more even than that. Because not only are the dinobots cool in and of themselves, and not only do these new toys closely resemble the originals (but better, it would appear), but...
  • It looks like the new dinobots are actually a combiner set, able to merge to become Volcanicus!
  • There's a new dinobot! She's called Slash, and transforms into a velociraptor. (Of course she transforms into a raptor. After Jurassic Park, how could she be anything else?)
Of course, this is all counterbalanced by the silliness of renaming Slag to Slug. This appears to be something to do with the slang associated with 'slag', but that then leaves me confused - what with 'slash' being slang for 'pee' (that said, pretty much everything is slang for 'pee' somewhere...)

Anyway, all of this raises the crucial question I raised above: why did nobody tell me?